Campaign Watchdog Grindle Questions Martinez Contribution

Hat tip to the Voice of OC, as campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle has called into question a campaign donation made to Santa Ana Council member Michele Martinez’s Assembly campaign.  The contribution, from a vendor awarded a contract by the city of Santa Ana, came after Martinez voted to award the vendor a city contract.  Grindle was quick to point out she believes Martinez accepted the contribution in error.

From the story:

Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez broke the city law governing campaign contributions when she took $500 from Naranjo Landscape shortly after voting to approve a city contract with the company, Shirley Grindle, Orange County campaign finance watchdog, said last week.

Santa Ana law limits campaign contributions from companies that have had business before council to no more than $250 during the three months after the vote.

Martinez’s Assembly campaign committee received the contribution Nov. 29, just 58 days after she voted to award Naranjo the $184,500 contract.

The donation was made to Martinez’s Assembly campaign committee, not to Martinez’s City Council campaign, but the city law prohibits such donations to “any campaign committee controlled by the council member,” Grindle said.

Grindle said she believes Martinez accepted the contribution by accident. Martinez is “one of the better council people,” she said.

Martinez would not return repeated phone calls from the Voice of OC for comment.  But this isn’t the first time that Martinez accepted a political contribution and voted on a issue affecting the contributor.  From this story in OC Weekly in 2010:

Tinajero and Martinez admitted receiving campaign donations from one of SanTana’s many soccer clubs, then voting on a matter involving reducing city fees on fútbol fields. What’s most fascinating about their admissions, however, is that their press release to reporters (sent from personal email accounts, not city-issued ones) nearly said the same things word for word, meaning that either Tinajero and Martinez operate on the exact same brain wavelength (set, of course, by SanTana mayor Don Papi Pulido) or that the crisis-management team the two use needs to learn the value of a thesaurus, and quick.

Martinez’s press release:

COUNCILWOMAN MICHELE MARTINEZ TAKES PROMPT ACTION TO CORRECT POSSIBLE CONFLICT OF INTEREST

SANTA ANA – Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez acted quickly today to correct a possible conflict of interest.

Martinez accepted a check this year from an adult soccer club. She voted at the last City Council meeting for a measure that greatly reduced a city fee that is paid by seven adult soccer clubs, including the one that gave her a campaign donation. The city fee is dedicated to a fund that will eventually pay to replace the grass at the Dan Young Soccer Complex with artificial turf.

“Accepting this check left the impression of a conflict of interest,” said Martinez. “City staff did not apprise the Council that a conflict existed. When I found out I immediately asked Mayor Pulido to conduct a special session so that the rest of the City Council may retake the vote in question, while I will recuse myself.”

Martinez acknowledged that there was some confusion about the agenda item in question as it included both a city parking fee and the turf fee reduction.

Martinez also immediately directed her campaign treasurer to return the funds to the soccer club in question.

The City Council voted unanimously for the measure in question, by a 7-0 vote. It would have passed even if Martinez had abstained from voting.

Martinez has been a longtime supporter of youth and adult sports and fitness programs. She is an advocate for nutrition and health programs for young people.

“It is important for the people of our city to know that we, as Council Members, are ethical and are committed to transparency in our local government,” said Martinez.

City staff has no way of knowing what contributions Martinez accepts for her assembly race.  Since this is not the first time she’s accepted a contribution while taking a vote on city business, you’d think she would be more careful about this.  If Martinez’s campaign office provides a statement, we will post it.  But don’t hold your breath.  I’ll note the Voice of OC cites an anonymous tip for the story.  It wasn’t us or we would have written about it already.

  7 comments for “Campaign Watchdog Grindle Questions Martinez Contribution

  1. February 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I have to add that any prosecution of this offense is up to the Interim City Attorney, who has conflicted himself out because he gave Martinez a $100 contribution to her Assembly Campaign. How unethical is that?

    • Repulsed
      February 16, 2012 at 8:14 am

      What sort of a moron city attorny would contribute to his boss’s campaign. By doing so, he created a conflict that yet again may impact the citizens of Santa Ana.
      Oh, I answered my own question…..

  2. cook
    February 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    What is the difference between this contribution and the ones the other councilwoman got years ago?

    As I recall the FPPC ruled that the cities campaign finance laws do not apply to county or state office races.

    So I don’t think there is any violation as the cities law does not apply in this situation.

    Is it RIGHT? Maybe not, but the city staff, the city council, the city voters, and the city residents have not lifted a finger to fix it.

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

      Cook,

      In this case there is indeed no violation of FPPC regulations. The violation is of City code. It is the city law that prohibits anyelected official from accepting a contribution from someone with business before the Council for a period of time, before and after, the matter is heard.

      • COOK
        February 16, 2012 at 9:45 am

        Chris, that is the same argument that was given with the OBP contributions with the other council woman.

        The city code has not been updated or fixed to address how it applies to non-city elections. So I expect that any complaint would end up just like those involving OBP and that place across from the mall.

        No action required.

        That ex city attorney sure could write some double speak laws, on the face they look good, but underneath they don’t hold up to legal challenges.

  3. Post-Modern
    February 16, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I gave Prevatt a $10.00 contribution. I hope he will return the favor.

Comments are closed.