Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez had a rough day on Thursday while trying to promote her campaign for the 69th Assembly district. She was overheard talking loudly on her cell phone about campaign details by California Watch Senior Editor Bob Salladay who was sitting next to her on a train bound for Oakland.
Salladay started tweeting her comments which soon sent little birds flying all over the twitterverse chirping up a storm. While bragging to an unidentified person, Martinez talked about endorsements she had received, some she hadn’t received, and her discussions with the Papa Indian Tribe courting support for her campaign. That’s where her conversation became a hot lead projectile of doom.
Salladay tweeted; “She says: “I’m working with chairman Robert Smith from Pala. (Indian tribe) Yeah, they are going to come in real big with some IEs.” While candidates are permitted to know about Independent Expenditure campaigns, they’re not usually aware of those efforts, their extent, or involved directly with their genesis. Martinez frames her statement saying that she is working with Smith and he has promised significant support through IE’s.
Such direct contact between a candidate and an IE group, in effect planning and coordinating the level of support she should expect, is not legal. A candidate can learn indirectly that an IE group is considering an expenditure, but the candidate and the organization principals cannot discuss the topic directly. Clearly, that is what Martinez appears to have acknowledged doing.
Martinez took exception to Saladays’ tweets in an email sent to the Orange County Register’s Andrew Galvin:
“I don’t know what’s worse; someone secretly listening to a private conversation without consent or misrepresenting that conversation publicly,” she asserted. “It’s disrespectful, dishonest and downright creepy. Now, I’m even more motivated to bring INTEGRITY, civility and honor back to public service in Sacramento.”
Martinez is unclear as to what aspects of her conversation, as relayed by Saladay, were misrepresented. It takes an interesting twist of convoluted logic for her to speak of restoring integrity and honor to Sacramento given her own personal record on such matters. Martinez was caught red-handed in 2010 taking campaign contributions in excess of $250 from interested parties and then voting in support of matters they had pending before the City Council, a violation of both state and city conflict of interest regulations. In a written statement following the first revelation of improper votes Martinez blamed city staff for failing to inform her that voting on the matter posed a conflict of interest and violation of law.
“Accepting this check left the impression of a conflict of interest,” said Martinez. “City staff did not apprise the Council that a conflict existed”
In September 2010 I wrote about a $40 million example of Martinez taking money and then voting illegally.
In June of 2010 Michele Martinez cast the 4th and needed yes vote to give roughly $40 million in land and redevelopment $$$ to Related California/Griffin Realty Corporation as the master developer for a Santa Ana Redevelopment project. According to her campaign finance report for the period ending June 30, 2010, she received a $500 campaign contribution from Griffin Realty Corporation on April 2, 2010.
Unfortunately if this doesn’t look like pay to play, what followed in the next few weeks makes it rather clear that Councilwoman Martinez sold her vote for the project.
On June 15, 2010, Martinez reports a $500 contribution from William Witte, the President of Related California. On June 25th, Martinez reports a second $500 contribution from Griffin Realty. On June 30th, Martinez reported a second $500 contribution from William Witte. In total Martinez accepted $2,000 in campaign contributions from the developers running the Station District Redevelopment Project. $1,500 of those contributions came within 30 days of her illegal vote to move the project forward.
The response Martinez gave to Andrew Galvin regarding her train conversation garnered some harsh criticism in the comments section of his story.
OCWeekly Editor Gustavo Arellano wrote: “Just admit it, Michelle: You screwed up. Trying to take the high road when you’re caught wading in the latrine is laughable. Congrats! You got me interested in your campaign—namely, to investigate it.” Arellano writes about Martinez on the OCWeekly’s Navel Gazing Blog here.
Jason Seleno wrote: “I conduct all of my private conversations I don’t want anyone to hear while I’m using public transportation with a large crowd around me.”
Elliot Lee writes: “You’re probably one of those phone users who like to let everybody hear how important you are. Keep your voice down next time you talk in public and stop blaming others, it’s all on you.”
Bob Saladay tweeted the OC Register story saying: “There is nothing secret about an elected official talking loudly on a public train.”
In an interview with Voice of OC, Salladay said the quote he tweeted was “solid.”
“I didn’t put any words in her mouth. That’s what she said,” Salladay said.
A couple things are abundantly clear from yesterday’s events. 1) Martinez has a habit of making excuses and blaming others for her mistakes. And 2) Martinez is unlikely to receive the independent financial support for her struggling campaign from the Pala Indian Tribe she was counting on, since such an expenditure would likely invite an investigation of campaign coordination by the FPPC.
Simply put, her comments serve as the bullet and her mouth the smoking gun.