Advertisement

Martinez Credit Card Paid for His Dates With Women, Jury Papers Say

Times Staff Writer

The grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment of City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez portrayed the lawmaker as a hard-drinking bar-hopper who had a “very, very close” personal relationship with a city employee and charged meals and drinks with other women to the city’s tab.

Transcripts of the 12 days of grand jury hearings, released Tuesday, show that witnesses testified that Martinez was out dining or drinking with one or more women--often for purely social purposes--on 13 of the 19 city-paid occasions that figure in the 28-count indictment for misuse of a city credit card. The documents became available after Martinez’s attorney lost a court effort to keep them sealed.

In only one of those instances did Martinez accurately list the female guest on expense reports submitted to city auditors, grand jury records show. In the remainder of the cases, Martinez claimed he was dining with developers, public officials or male friends with whom he said he discussed city business.

Martinez, who declined to appear before the grand jury, has pleaded innocent to the indictment. He declined Tuesday to answer questions about the grand jury testimony. “The only time to respond to this type of thing is in court,” Martinez said.

Advertisement

The 999-page transcript contains witnesses’ descriptions of:

- Displays of public lewdness by Martinez.

- Occasions when companions believed the councilman, who sometimes would order bottles of expensive champagne during the course of a meal, was intoxicated in public.

- Meals where Martinez’s companions tried to pay at least part of the tab, but the councilman insisted on paying in full with his city credit card.

Advertisement

- Times when Martinez allowed developers and other businessmen with issues before the City Council to buy him drinks and meals.

- Haphazard record-keeping by Martinez and his inattention to the details of how his council office operated.

The 19-member grand jury indicted Martinez March 12 on 28 felony counts of misappropriating or falsely accounting for public funds. Each count carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Conviction on any of the charges would automatically force Martinez from the 8th District council seat he has held since his appointment to fill a vacancy in December, 1982.

Advertisement

Martinez came under scrutiny in September, when press accounts publicized city records showing the councilman and Rudy Murillo, then his chief aide, had charged about $9,500 in meals to the city in the year ending June 30--more than the combined total for the other seven council members and the mayor’s office. Murillo’s spending is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the district attorney’s office.

Previously, Martinez has said his heavy use of a city-issued Visa card reflected his desire to avoid feeling beholden to local business operators by picking up tabs from meals with them. But businessmen told the grand jury that they regularly paid for meals at which they discussed pending city issues with Martinez.

“Did you have any practice with regard to paying for tabs on those occasions that you were eating with Councilman Martinez, be it breakfast, lunch of dinner?” Deputy Dist. Atty. Allan Preckel asked attorney Paul Robinson, who often represents real estate interests before the City Council, at one point in the grand jury hearings.

“Most of the time I paid,” Robinson said.

Advertisement

Nancy Hines, at the time a project manager for SEG-Southwest Estate Group Inc., a downtown developer, testified that she lobbied for one of her firm’s projects during a dinner with Martinez following a San Diego Padres’ baseball game last May. The councilman used his city credit card to pay the $50.26 tab for a party of five, though other guests offered to help with the bill.

"(I was) kind of putting in plugs for the project to try to get approval,” Hines told the grand jury. Martinez was part of the council majority that approved the City Plaza project near Horton Plaza a few weeks later, Hines said.

City policy discourages council members from meeting with developers and their representatives when a development issue is coming up for a council vote, on the grounds that all parties to planning matters should be guaranteed a fair and equal hearing. Conducting such meetings is not a criminal offense, however.

The transcripts include the testimony of Helen Bird, director of the city’s litter control program, who told the grand jurors that she and Martinez, a married father of three, had a personal relationship through much of 1984 and 1985 that included the councilman spending the night at her El Cajon home three or four times.

Advertisement

“We had a personal relationship,” Bird testified. “I did see him socially, and we were very, very close.”

Bird nevertheless testified that city business was discussed when she dined twice with Martinez last June, a period during which she said theirs “was a on-and-off-again relationship.”

According to Bird’s testimony and credit card records reviewed by the grand jury, Martinez used his city credit card to pay for a $42.68 meal they shared June 12 at Stefano’s restaurant in Hillcrest. Bird said she requested the dinner to discuss conflicts that had developed between her and Martinez’s staff over the need for a translator at a City Council meeting.

Two weeks later, they met for a $47.39 dinner at the Fat City-China Camp restaurant near downtown to further discuss staff issues, she said.

Advertisement

“Councilman Martinez and I did have a personal relationship, but we are also capable of having a very professional relationship, also,” Bird told the grand jury. “I dealt with him on a councilman subordinate basis daily, and these were two meals that were specifically set to discuss specific problems in his office that were impacting my work, my job.”

Martinez is charged with one count of falsely accounting for city funds in connection with each of the meals with Bird. On credit card slips he submitted to city auditors, he said he dined with businessman Rudy Martinez on June 12 and with developer Chris Mortenson on June 28.

Bird declined Tuesday to comment on the grand jury proceedings.

Testimony and records reviewed by the grand jury show that Martinez dined repeatedly with two other women at meals he reported on city expense forms as sharing with businessmen or public officials.

Advertisement

According to a reconstruction by prosecutors of his credit card tabs, Martinez had four meals--ranging in cost from $39.08 to $230.25--between Jan. 31 and May 16, 1985 with Jane Reid, one of the aides in his council office. All four meals are the bases of charges in the grand jury indictment.

Reid testified the meals with her boss took place when her husband, Ty Reid, then-president of the San Diego Police Officers Assn., was out of town to attend a course at Harvard University between Jan. 6 to mid-March. She said her husband made three visits back to San Diego.

Jane Reid told the grand jury that she discussed city business with Martinez at each of their meals together.

“I know we talked about district issues,” Reid said under questioning about a $162.46 dinner with Martinez--including two $35 bottles of Mumm’s champagne--at Mister A’s restaurant in January, 1985. “There was no other reason for me to go.”

Advertisement

Reid testified that she “was embarrassed” accompanying Martinez to the bar at the Atlantis restaurant two weeks later, following a $230.25 dinner with him at Dicanti Ristorante in La Jolla.

Over her objections, Martinez decided to stop at the bar to hear a friend who was performing there, she said.

“We saw someone there from City Hall, someone that I did not work closely with, but someone who I recognized and (who) recognized me,” Reid testified. “I was embarrassed. I didn’t like being seen there. I didn’t think it was appropriate. I think I should have gone home. Subsequently, I did leave and went home.”

Reid declined to answer a reporter’s questions about her grand jury testimony.

Advertisement

In May, 1985, Martinez dined twice at city expense with Deborah Nordstrom, a real estate broker who testified she had met the councilman a few weeks earlier when they both were having drinks at the Rusty Pelican restaurant in La Jolla.

Preckel asked her to characterize the dinners. “Would you refer to them as dates?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” she said. “Perhaps not. You know, I don’t know what they were to him.” Unemployed at the time, Nordstrom said she saw the meals as “an opportunity to do some sort of networking.” She since has moved to Tucson, Ariz., according to her testimony, but she could not be reached for comment.

The two meals--which involved multiple food and bar tabs--are the bases for 10 of the 28 charges against Martinez.

Advertisement

The transcripts also contain detailed testimony from two women describing boorish public behavior by Martinez, who issued an apology during a council meeting in December for any embarrassment the credit card episode had caused his colleagues or the city.

Karen Bjornsen, a pharmacist and interior designer, testified that when Martinez took her to Mister A’s on a dinner date in October, 1984, the councilman’s behavior prompted her to get up and leave in the middle of the meal.

“He had had a lot to drink and was unpleasant,” she said.

At the grand jurors’ request, Preckel questioned her more closely:

Advertisement

“Was he suggestive?” Preckel asked.

“Yes,” Bjornsen replied.

“In a lewd fashion?

“Yes,” she said.

Advertisement

“Was he unpleasant towards you in a physical fashion?” Preckel asked.

“No,” Bjornsen answered.

Bjornsen testified that she went to lunch with Martinez sometime afterward when he called up “to apologize for his behavior.” Neither of their meals figures in the charges against the councilman.

Bjornsen said Martinez told her during one of their outings that he was separated from his wife, Pat, and planned to get a divorce. Nordstrom also testified that she was under the impression that Martinez was divorced, though she said she was not sure why.

Advertisement

Martinez’s secretary, Natalie Crosthwaite, told the grand jury that the councilman had confided to her in late 1984 or early 1985 that he was having marital problems and was thinking about dissolving his marriage.

Charlotte Sharpe, formerly a City Council secretary, testified that Martinez drank heavily during an evening at Dobson’s restaurant last April 24. As she had observed before when she saw the councilman drinking, she said his behavior toward women in particular changed that night.

"(He was) just not very gentlemanly,” Sharpe told the grand jury. “He would . . . say lewd things and suggestive things and do things with his mouth that was kind of, you know, repulsive . . . .”

Other guests at the $402.93 meal gave varying accounts of Martinez’s behavior.

Advertisement

Colin Flaherty, a one-time aide to the councilman, said Martinez was not drunk. “I have never seen Uvaldo drunk,” Flaherty testified. “I have been with him when we both have had a lot to drink, and he handles it very well.”

But Flaherty added that Martinez “was being a little forward” toward women in the party, including Nargis Din, concierge at the Rancho Bernardo Inn. “I don’t think Uvaldo was on his best behavior that night,” Flaherty said.

Din, though, testified that no one at the dinner was drunk--though Martinez was ordering bottles of champagne--and that no one did anything that offended her.

As confidential secretary to the council from July, 1984, until earlier this month, Sharpe testified that she was the go-between for council members and the city auditor’s office on credit card paper work.

Advertisement

Martinez, she said, frequently failed to submit required back-up documentation listing guests and other details of his expenses. On the average, she said, “eight out of 10" credit card slips would lack the necessary detail. That prompted her to work with Crosthwaite to recoup charge slips and other documentation from the councilman.

“He wasn’t very good at . . . How do I say this? He didn’t think it was that important to detail stuff,” Sharpe testified. “It was just for Nat and I to figure out.”


Advertisement
Advertisement