San Diego County Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller said Monday that his staff could decide by the end of the week whether to begin a formal criminal investigation into alleged discrepancies in the use of a city credit card by Councilman Uvaldo Martinez.
Martinez’s staff members Monday declined to disclose to a reporter his appointment calendar, which would list his luncheon and dinner schedule, and they huddled throughout the day in the councilman’s office to “reconcile” the alleged discrepancies that have surfaced in a growing controversy over Martinez’s heavy use of the city credit card from July 1, 1984, to June 30, 1985.
City records show that Martinez and his top aide, Rudy Murillo, charged about $9,500 in meals, travel and lodging expenses on city credit cards--exceeding the combined amount charged by the other council members on their city credit cards.
So far, at least 13 people Martinez said he treated to meals at city expense have told The Times that, in fact, they did not eat with the councilman on the dates indicated on his credit card report. On one occasion when Martinez used the card, one of the people said she and her husband met Martinez and his wife by chance at a local restaurant, then ate at what she thought was Martinez’s expense, and did not discuss city business.
Several of those interviewed--including U.S. Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego), his aide Dan Greenblat and Lee Grissom, president of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce--said they have not eaten with Martinez at all during the last year. Two Poway city officials said they had never eaten at an Escondido restaurant at which Martinez reported he bought them dinner.
The revelations over the weekend prompted City Atty. John Witt to send two investigators over to the city auditor’s department Monday morning to begin sifting through credit card records for Martinez with the intention of presenting copies of receipts and the credit card report to the district attorney. But, by the end of the day, Witt decided to call the district attorney’s office and invite its prosecutors over to City Hall to see the records themselves.
Miller said late Monday that he had asked Deputy Dist. Atty. Allan Preckel to handle the matter involving Martinez, but he added that his office had not received any documents. Miller said he expected them by the end of the week, and his office would then be able to determine whether Martinez’s discrepancies warranted a formal criminal investigation.
“We haven’t received anything that represents either the accounts or expense statements or any written documents,” Miller said. “So if and when we get that material from the auditor and the city attorney, then we’ll take a look at it.”
Martinez said he will cooperate with the district attorney if a criminal investigation results. “I will give the D.A. all the information they need to satisfy them,” Martinez said. “My records are open.”
He also acknowledged that the spreading controversy over his use of public funds has politically damaged him.
“I think there’s no question that I’ve been damaged,” he said. “That’s a long-term concern. The only thing I’m concerned about now is reconciling the records and re-establishing the reputation I had. I think up until a few days ago, I think I was a pretty damn good councilman. I think that’s true.”
During the day, Martinez’s aides huddled in his office, cross-checking his calendars for 1984 and 1985 with city auditor’s reports listing the dates and guests for meals charged by the councilman. They quit by evening and found 12 “corrections” out of 32 entries on Martinez’s credit card log, said Rudy Murrillo, the councilman’s top assistant.
Murillo said those corrections, which he declined to discuss in detail, were necessary because the city’s credit card report mixes “posting” and “transaction” dates for meals charged by Martinez. Where the actual “transaction” date is used, the aides have found no problem matching the councilman’s meals with those scheduled in his appointment book.
The problems arise, said Murillo, where the city’s credit card report instead uses the posting date--the day when the meal is actually charged against the account. Since the posting date is as much as 10 days after the date when the meal occurred, the result would be an apparent discrepancy.
City accounting division manager Joe Lozano said Monday that the department uses either a transaction or a posting date when writing the city reports, depending on what is available.
Murillo also said that a disputed $13.50 meal with attorney Louis Wolfsheimer on May 30 at Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant was a case of mistaken identity. Wolfsheimer has said that, despite city records, he was in Europe at the time he was supposed to be eating with Martinez and discussing convention center business. Murillo said Martinez apparently goofed because the May 20 meal was with Jim Milch, Wolfsheimer’s law partner, and the discussion was about a medical services contract with the city.
Still, Murillo conceded that the confusion about dates does not explain complaints by some listed diners that they never ate with Martinez at all.
“There are some gaps,” Murillo said. “All we can do is submit a report to Uvaldo, indicating what discrepancies exist. . . . It’s up to him to explain any further deficiencies.”
Martinez said, however, that he would not make any further comments until he has seen the work done by his staff in a day or so. Until then, he said, “I’m staying away from it (staff review) to retain the integrity of the process. I don’t want anybody to think that I manipulated it.”