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.
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.