Background Investigation: Mike Martinez

HomeElectionsBackground InvestigationBackground Investigation: Mike Martinez

Here’s What the Public Records Say About the Council Member Running for Re-election

by Rebecca LaFlure

Updated May 30, 2012 12:59pm
Mike Martinez
Mike Martinez

When Mike Martinez announced he would seek a third term on the Austin City Council, The Austin Bulldog went to work researching Martinez’s personal and political background.

As with prior investigations of Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, we used an organized plan to find, copy, and publish every public record we could find in an effort to educate citizens about their elected officials in the months leading to the May 2012 election.

We also read and compiled past news articles from The Austin Bulldog and other publications, and fact-checked statements elected officials made about their backgrounds.

Our research into Martinez painted a picture of an outspoken politician financially backed by well-connected donors who has gained a loyal following over the past six years and a vocal group of critics.

We invite readers to study the documents and let us know if there are any important details we overlooked, or areas that warrant further investigation.

East Austin connections

At his January 25 re-election campaign kickoff at Nuevo Leon Restaurant on East Sixth Street, Martinez continued to stress his commitment to East Austin residents, noting twice that he has lived and worked in East Austin for more than 20 years.

“Twenty years ago I joined the Austin Fire Department and became an Austin firefighter and worked right here in East Austin my entire career,” Martinez said. “I’ve lived and worked right in this neighborhood for over 20 years. … East Austin is special to me. It’s my home.”

Research into his real estate records and Austin Fire Department employee file provide more details about Martinez’s connections to the East Austin area. Public records show that Martinez joined the Austin Fire Department in October 1992 and worked at an East Austin fire station until resigning June 20, 2006, to serve on the Austin City Council.

He received overall high marks throughout his more than 13 years at AFD, according to his employee evaluations, and earned the department’s Phoenix award, given to department members involved in the “successful resuscitation of a patient from a life-threatening state.”

Since 1992, Martinez, who grew up in Rockdale, a small town 65 miles northeast of Austin, said he has lived on Camino La Costa (northeast Austin near U.S. Highway 290), Douglas Street (southeast Austin near Oltorf), Haskell Street (near Festival Beach in central East Austin), and at his current residence on Tower Trail (in far East Austin off 51st Street near U.S. Highway 183).

However, he has not spent the entire past 20 years living on the east side.

In 1996 Martinez and his first wife, Lisa Kirkpatrick, purchased a house located west of I-35 near South Congress, according to Travis County real estate records. The couple sold that home in 1998 and purchased another house the same year in San Leanna, a village 11 miles south of downtown Austin.

Martinez moved to an apartment on Douglas Street in October 2002 after separating from Kirkpatrick, according to divorce records. He purchased his first East Austin home in September 2007 in the Senate Hills subdivision, and lives there with his current wife, Lara Wendler, legislative director for State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston). They were married in November 2008.

Martinez and Wendler are now in the process of building a new house at 2314 E. 11th Street, at the corner of Swenson Avenue. Construction of the house has not gone unnoticed by many of his critics. They complain the three-story house towers over more-modest homes in that area and represents the gentrification Martinez has said he wants to curb. (Gentrification occurs when new development and a surge of wealthier new residents cause property values to increase and force many long-time, working class residents to leave, a trend East Austin is experiencing.)

Mike Martinez’ new house at 2314 E. 11th St.
Mike Martinez’ new house at 2314 E. 11th St.

“He’s accommodating (gentrification), and his home is a prime example of that,” said Gavino Fernandez Jr., a longtime East Austin resident and coordinator for El Concilio, a coalition of Mexican American neighborhood associations.

Fernandez, who ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2003, said, “Can you imagine the single-family homes around his property, and how those taxes are going to increase? The people who own them are on fixed incomes.”

When asked to respond to these criticisms, Martinez said by e-mail that the home itself will only be slightly more than 3,000 square-feet and is located on two lots that were owned by a church and sat vacant for nearly five years. Martinez said he has supported affordable housing projects located within the same area of his future home.

The building permit indicates the three-story house totals 5,289 square feet, including 4.5 bathrooms, two garages; a 629-square-foot covered patio, 175-square-feet of covered porches, and a 163-square-foot balcony. The lot is 11,649 square feet, according to Travis Central Appraisal District. The new house has a total living area of 3,732 square feet, according to appraisal district records. (Updated May 30, 2012 12:59pm.)

According to the building permit, the home uses 4,656 square feet of the allowable 5,238 square feet of impervious cover (any surface in the landscape that cannot effectively absorb or infiltrate rainfall, including driveways, roads, parking lots, rooftops, and sidewalks) and 100 percent of the floor-to-area ratio allowed.

Although some more modest redevelopment is taking place in the area near Martinez’ new home, the house next door at 2410 E. 11th St. was built in 1933 and has a total living area of 768 square feet. The next house at 2308 E. 11th St. was built in 1929 and has a total living area of 962 square feet.

Martinez said, “Our community has long supported and fostered the value that urban core development reduces sprawl and is exactly what creates a more sustainable community. We have also adopted ordinances that preclude development over certain sizes based on the amount of property available. My family is fully supporting both community values and policies by moving our family further into the center of Austin and fully complying with all development regulations that apply.”

Educational background

Education records indicate that Martinez is currently enrolled for the spring semester at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work, but has never received a college degree.

He attended Temple College from fall 1987 to spring 1988, a fact confirmed by Stephanie Parum, the college’s admissions and records specialist.

Martinez went on to attend Austin Community College on and off from fall 1988 to spring 1992 to receive Emergency Medical Technician certification, but no degree or certification is reflected in his records, ACC spokesperson Alexis Patterson Hanes said.

This contradicts an April 13, 2006 Statesman article that states Martinez received EMT certification from ACC.

Martinez insists that he did receive EMT certification, saying by e-mail, “I assure you these statements are accurate. I would not have been able to practice medicine in Travis County without this certification as well as being a licensed firefighter with the State of Texas.”

ACC is still researching The Austin Bulldog’s request to double-check his records.

Martinez previously attended the University of Texas at Austin in the spring 1996 semester, according to UT’s degree and attendance database.

He received nine UT credit hours in 2003 for his participation in what Martinez called the “LBJ School of Public Affairs West Point Military Leadership Program.”

Howard Prince, a clinical professor for the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT, and a West Point graduate, remembers teaching Martinez as a part of a five-month intensive course called “Leadership in Police Organizations.” Prince said the course has “never been a part of the LBJ school,” but instead was part of an Austin Police Department course that taught city police officers and firefighters how to lead people within complex organizations.

Prince and Michael Lauderdale, a professor in UT’s School of Social Work, and current chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission, led the course, which was modeled after a program the Los Angeles Police Department had implemented, using training materials from West Point.

Lauderdale, the program’s “professor of record,” said the program, which ran from 1999–2009, was mainly taught on the UT campus and was often referred to as the “West Point Leadership Program.”

Ethics complaints, alleged election code violation

Martinez has faced several public allegations of election or ethics code violations during his two terms as a city council member, but only one resulted in an official finding of guilt.

Campaign finance reports
—The Texas Ethics Commission determined April 21, 2011, that Martinez violated the state Election Code by not disclosing the full names of five donors totaling $1,550 in his campaign finance reports and by failing to initially report his 2009 campaign treasurer’s address.

Six Houston-area Tea Party members filed the complaint against Martinez—as well as separate complaints against Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the other council members—after the Austin City Council decided to end city business with Arizona in protest of the state’s controversial immigration law, according to a July 4, 2011, article in the Austin American-Statesman.

The complaints resulted in $2,250 worth of small fines against the mayor and Austin city council members. The commission ordered Martinez to pay $100—less than any of the other council members.

Martinez said the complaint was “in direct retaliation for our stance against the actions taken in Arizona.” He has since paid the $100 fine.

City ethics complaint—On February 28, 2011, the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed an ethics complaint against Martinez and Mayor Lee Leffingwell, YNN-TV reported.

The complaint, filed with the city auditor’s Integrity Unit by Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder, stemmed from hundreds of city e-mails obtained by local media outlets, including The Austin Bulldog.

The complaint mainly focused on an e-mail exchange between Martinez and Leffingwell in which Leffingwell called Rhonda Kerr, the city’s first woman fire chief, a “company” man and said her City Council presentation was a “snow job.” Leffingwell also wrote that he thought Austin African American Firefighters Association President Bobby Johns had been “bought off.”

Martinez then called City Manager Marc Ott and Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald “jokes” and said, “nothing will change with (Kerr) in charge.” Ott and McDonald are African Americans.

Once exposed, Leffingwell and Martinez publicly apologized for the remarks.

The complaint states that “the comments convey racist and sexist overtones,” interfere with personnel matters, and undermine Ott’s authority.

Kyle Carvell, spokesman for the City of Austin, said the city auditor sent the complaint to the city’s Ethics Review Commission, which dismissed it April 12, 2011.

According to April 12 meeting minutes, three commission members voted in favor of dismissing the complaint, while attorney Susan Morrison voted for the complaint to proceed to a hearing, and attorney Velva Price abstained from voting.

State election code—Less than a month later, on May 3, 2011, Martinez allegedly violated state election code by taking a photo of his completed ballot and posting it to his Facebook page, the Statesman reported.

The ballot indicated he voted for City Council incumbent Randi Shade, who was in a heated race against challenger Kathie Tovo. Tovo won the election.

The Texas Election Code, Section 61.014, states, “a person may not use a wireless communication device within 100 feet of a voting station. A person may not use any mechanical or electronic means of recording images or sound within 100 feet of a voting station.”

Martinez later removed the photo when people pointed out the violation. He told the Statesman at the time that, “Obviously I had no idea that it violated a code and was clearly an oversight.”

Personal financial statements—On August 17, 2011, The Austin Bulldog reported that Martinez listed in his 2011 mid-year financial statement the names of 49 entities that he and his wife held, owned, acquired, or sold stock, or any other equity ownership valued at $5,000 or more.

Martinez did not report these investments, worth at least $245,000, in his previous annual report.

Seeking clarification, The Austin Bulldog e-mailed Martinez August 8, 2011, to ask if he owned these stocks during 2010—and failed to report them in his last annual report—or acquired them since January 1.

Martinez replied, “After consulting with counsel, my wife and I have expanded the mid-year PFS (personal financial statement) to provide more information. The mid-year PFS accurately reflects our current situation.”

Martinez initially did not respond to a follow-up query at the time asking, once again, if he had owned those investments the previous year and failed to report them. Incorrectly filing these statements with the city is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

When asked about it again for this background investigation, Martinez said the assets listed on his last financial filing were maintained solely by his wife, noting that, “State law does not require the reporting of spouse’s assets if you have no direct control over them.”

City Code, however, does, in fact, require reporting of a spouses income and assets. City Code does not provide the exception granted in state law for assets over which you have no control.

“After consulting with my attorney, we reported my wife’s assets to ensure we are complying with city ordinances,” Martinez said. “We believe, based on our attorney’s guidance, we are over-reporting out of an abundance of caution and transparency.”

Supported by well-connected backers

Martinez has demonstrated an ability to raise significant campaign funds from influential people.
Campaign finance reports for his 2006 campaign are no longer available.

He raised $144,201 for his re-election campaign in 2009, and spent $122,947 in that race, according to campaign finance reports from that year. He used $26,100 of that money to repay loans he had made to his campaigns. Martinez garnered nearly 85 percent of the votes running against one opponent, Jose Quintero, who raised no money.

According to his January 17, 2012, campaign finance report, Martinez has raised $70,460 in donations and spent $10,059 in his 2012 re-election campaign—more than his fellow council members Sheryl Cole and Bill Spelman, who are also running for re-election.

Laura Pressley, co-founder of bottled water company Pure Rain and an anti-fluoride advocate, is Martinez’s only challenger so far. She held her campaign kickoff December 9 and on January 17 announced she would seek the Place 2 seat, despite Martinez being the only Hispanic council member.

Pressley raised $3,100 through December 31, according to her contribution report filed January 17. While she has reported raising significantly less money than Martinez so far, Pressley said many citizens pledged they would help fund her campaign against Martinez.

“We will easily have $40,000 to $50,000 by March,” Pressley said. “I (had) a lot of donors waiting for us to declare against Martinez.”

Martinez continues to get financial support from well-connected people, some of whom bundle contributions for him. (Bundlers are individuals who solicit and obtain contributions of $200 or more from five or more people. This does not apply to an individual who raises $5,000 or less for a candidate through a fundraising event held at the individual’s residence.)

According to his January 17 campaign finance report, four bundlers for Martinez’s 2012 campaign raised a combined $22,650 for that reporting period, about 32 percent of the reported total. The bundlers are:

David Armbrust, an attorney with Armbrust & Brown and registered city lobbyist involved in business, real estate and environmental issues in Central Texas. Armbrust, who also solicited contributions for Martinez’s 2009 campaign, bundled 29 contributions totaling $10,150 for Martinez’s 2012 campaign.

Paul Bury, CEO and founder of Bury+Partners Inc., an engineering and consulting firm for public and private projects, and former chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. Bury bundled four contributions totaling $1,400.

Andy Pastor, co-founder and managing principal of Endeavor Real Estate Group, a commercial and real estate company that developed The Domain mixed-use project, which received millions of dollars in economic incentives from the City of Austin. Pastor bundled a dozen contributions totaling $4,200.

Michael Whellan, an attorney at Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody who represents clients before city and county governments in land-use and business issues. He is a registered city lobbyist whose clients include SXSW Incorporated, St. David’s Healthcare Center and Austin Cab. He bundled 20 contributions totaling $6,900 for Martinez.

Other notable donors to Martinez’s 2012 re-election campaign are former Council Member Randi Shade; Matt Curtis, former communications director for Mayor Lee Leffingwell; Mark Nathan, a political consultant and Leffingwell’s former chief of staff; and SXSW officials Hugh Forrest, Brent Grulke, Denise Hutto, Darin Klein, Elizabeth Koepke, Mike Shea, Brad Spies, Ron Suman Jr., Roland Swenson, and Scott Wilcox.

Political background

Union support reversed—Martinez was a familiar face at Austin City Hall long before taking office in June 2006. An Austin firefighter, Martinez was elected president of the Austin Firefighters Association in 2003, and successfully fought to secure collective bargaining rights for firefighters, and a pay raise that made Austin firefighters among the highest paid in Texas.He represented the interests of public safety professionals as chair of the Austin Firefighters Association Political Action Committee from 2001-2004.In his April 2004 AFD employee evaluation, Martinez wrote that he wanted to “become the best damn union president ever.”

Since taking office and joining Capital Metro’s board of directors in June 2007—and particularly since becoming board chairman in February 2010—Martinez’ once-emphatic pro-union stance has taken a complete turnabout as he led an effort to bust Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, according to union local President Joneth “Jay” Wyatt.

Wyatt claims that Martinez supported legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 that gave Capital Metro an ultimatum: Either cancel contracts with StarTran and Veolia Transportation (which together operate about 30 percent of Capital Metro’s bus service) and Herzog Transportation Services (which operates MetroRail) and bring all employees in-house, or contract out the lion’s share of bus service currently operated with Capital Metro’s in-house employees.

The in-house operation would require the union to voluntarily give up collective bargaining and the right to strike. The union has not agreed to do that.

An Austin American-Statesman article published April 29, 2011, before the legislation passed, quoted Martinez as saying, “We feel pretty confident the bill is going to pass,” and stated, “Martinez said he hopes to rejuvenate the in-house option.”

“Mike Martinez says he cares about employees but he’s doing all he can to take away our rights,” Wyatt told The Austin Bulldog February 8.

Martinez did not respond to an e-mail invitation to comment about Wyatt’s accusations.

Wyatt said he will seek political payback when local unions meet March 10 to interview candidates and decide which candidates the Central Labor Council will endorse. These endorsements bring campaign contributions and volunteers that are valuable to candidates running against strong opponents. Wyatt said he will do everything he can to prevent Martinez from gaining the two-thirds majority vote necessary to win an endorsement.

Other Capital Metro issues—Martinez became the board’s chair shortly before the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission released a poor review of the agency, noting that it failed to responsibly manage its finances and effectively engage the public in decisions. The review also stated that costs for in-house transit services are “excessive and not sustainable,” and Capital Metro must enhance commuter rail safety before expanding its rail system.

Martinez said at his campaign launch that he helped transform the agency over the past two years, noting the launch of the Red Line, a Metrorail service that connects downtown Austin with the suburban areas including Wells Branch, Lakeline, and Leander. The $105 million project opened in March 2010—two years later and costing $15 million more than what was initially projected, the Statesman reported.

According to a January 16, 2011,  Statesman article, the Capital Metro board voted to start charging people with disabilities and seniors for bus rides, despite protests by disability advocates. Capital Metro officials insisted that the fares are in line with other cities. Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio agencies all charge for bus rides.

Combative nature—The Austin American-Statesman described Martinez in a November 17, 2011, article as a “stocky, gregarious former head of the city firefighters union” who “wears the notion that he has disagreed with nearly everyone at City Hall at one time or another as a badge of honor.”

Martinez, a loyal Democrat, alluded to his reputation as the council’s most outspoken member at his January 27 re-election kickoff saying, “I don’t shy away from the challenges we face as a City Council. For better or for worse, I pretty much take them head on. That’s just my style.”

Mayoral ambition stalled—Martinez has expressed interest in seeking the mayor’s job, according to the Statesman, but opted not to run against Mayor Lee Leffingwell, one of his closest allies.

Martinez served as mayor pro tem until Council Member Sheryl Cole unseated him last June after publicly backing challenger Kathie Tovo, who beat incumbent Randi Shade in a runoff. That election marked Cole’s very public split with Leffingwell, Martinez, and Shade, and swung the 4-3 majority to favor Cole and Council Members Laura Morrison, Bill Spelman and Tovo.

Martinez held many of the same views as the mayor on hot-button issues: Both voted to continue construction on the $500 million Water Treatment Plant Number 4. Both advocated creating City Council districts. Both supported bringing the Formula One race track to Austin. Both voted against the $750,000 settlement in the police shooting death of teenager Nathaniel Sanders II. Martinez and Leffingwell also unsuccessfully pushed to move City Council elections from May to November. Now both face re-election May 12 with some erosion in their former bases of support.

Hispanic support and criticism

While Martinez has referred to himself as a champion for the East Austin and Latino community, he’s received mixed reviews from residents during his six-year tenure as a City Council member.

Hundreds of Austinites—many from Austin’s Latino and East Austin communities—gathered at Nuevo Leon Restaurant January 27 to show their support for Martinez’s re-election.

“East Austin still has a lot to be done,” Gloria Aleman, a retired Travis County employee who was raised on the eastside, said at Martinez’s kickoff. “His heart is in the right place, and I think he’s the only candidate who can make that happen. He cares about people.”

In his first term, Martinez sponsored a resolution preventing the development of an East Austin lot with natural springs and old oak trees.

He was the sole city council member to vote in October 2007 against relocating a city animal shelter to East Austin, siding with many neighborhood activists, and voted against a proposed landfill in the Webberville area in far eastern Travis County.

Martinez and Council Member Bill Spelman also successfully fought to pass an ordinance requiring employers to give construction workers rest breaks.

He sponsored a resolution, which the Council passed unanimously in May 2008, to launch a study addressing quality-of-life issues in Austin’s Hispanic community.

Martinez backed down from his proposal to build an RV park for homeless people in East Austin after several neighborhood groups protested.

However, several Hispanic activists and East Austin residents have voiced their support for his opponent, Laura Pressley, and their resentment over, what they see as, Martinez’s lack of attention to problems.

“We decided a while back to get rid of ‘Evil Knievel,’” Marcelo Tafoya, a former district director for District 12 of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said of Martinez. The minority members of the council “never represented us, and never even considered us. They make token gestures and the council votes against us. We’re sick and tired of it.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jose Quintero, an East Austin activist who ran against Martinez in 2009, said of the idea a white woman might beat Martinez. “He’s not helping us.”

Mary Rosalez, an Austin resident who grew up on the eastside and supports Pressley, said many critics feel he has not made enough of an effort to meet with citizens and attend various community meetings.

“I would rather have a representative who makes time to meet with people who are trying to fix a problem than someone who is too busy. And he seems to be too busy a lot,” she said.

Gavino Fernandez Jr., a long-time East Austin resident, said his biggest disappointment with Martinez relates to how he allocated Holly Good Neighbor Program funds.

Austin Energy created the program in 1990 to minimize the effects the Holly Power Plant had on the surrounding neighborhood by repairing homes and investing in neighborhood and recreation facilities. The Statesman reported August 29, 2011, that although the power plant shut down in 2007, city officials agreed to allocate $1 million a year until 2012.

As the City Council’s only Hispanic member, Martinez is responsible for compiling suggestions on how to spend the money and makes recommendations to the City Council for approval. However, other council members rarely question the suggestions, the Statesman reported.

Over the years, Fernandez and other residents argued that the program has strayed from its original intentions by, among other things, giving money to buildings not in the program area and funding community events that don’t directly benefit Holly neighborhood residents.

“(Martinez) was catering to his political friends, his political allies,” Fernandez, told The Austin Bulldog. “Had I known that (donating to his campaign) was a criteria for Mike to give out funds, I would have.”

“Fernandez, however, is a recipient of Holly program funds. The organization he leads, El Concilio, has received about $7,000 from the program to hold a few Halloween block parties, and he was granted a 30-year, $84,000, no-interest loan from the program in 2007 to reconstruct his family’s home, the Statesman reported.

A review of campaign finance reports from 2009 and 2012 and the program’s funding recipients show that some of Martinez’s campaign donors did benefit from Holly Good Neighborhood funds.

For example, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival, a for-profit event at Festival Gardens in East Austin, has received $150,000 in Holly funds since 2008. Rich Garza, founder of Pachanga Fest, and his wife, Elaine Garza, donated a total of $700 to Martinez’s 2012 campaign. Rich Garza also donated $350 to Martinez’s 2009 campaign. (An individual is not allowed to donate more than $350 to a City Council candidate per election cycle unless the candidate gets into a runoff, per city rules).

Rodolfo “Rudy” Mendez, director of Ballet East Dance Theatre, donated $100 to Martinez’s 2009 campaign. The dance studio has received $93,500 in Holly funds since 2005.

Most recently, Bellas Artes Alliance received $15,000 from the program to put on the Pan Americana Festival, a free event scheduled for March 18-19 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Andy Ramirez, CEO of Rz Communications, and Linda Ramirez, director of accounting for Rz Communications, are board members of Bellas Artes Alliance, the nonprofit that organized the event. The couple has donated a total of $1,400 to Martinez’s campaigns since 2009, and Andy Ramirez bundled contributions for Martinez during his 2009 campaign.

The Statesman also noted that the program set aside $72,000 for the Austin Latino Music Association in 2007 to build a small museum honoring Tejano music legend Manuel “Cowboy” Donley. But critics pointed out that the Austin Latino Music Association was run by Raul Alvarez, who served on the Austin City Council until June 2006.

However, Martinez said that the program and subsequent changes were instituted long before his arrival to City Hall, and many of the changes were made at the request of the same people who now criticize them.

“The policy decision to include such events in the Holly Good Neighbor Program was initiated by previous councils and supported by the entire council each and every year,” Martinez said. “We continue to support programs that provide cultural and heritage components for this community.”

Open meetings investigation

The Austin Bulldog broke the story on January 25, 2011, about the private meetings being held in which every council member met with every other council member to discuss city business right before each council meeting—a possible violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. If proven, a violation of the act—created to prevent elected officials from deliberating in secret—would be punishable by a fine of $100 to $500 fine, confinement in the county jail for one to six months, or both the fine and confinement.

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla announced later that day that his office had started an investigation into this matter based on a complaint filed by civic activist Brian Rodgers.

As The Austin Bulldog reported January 25, 2012, a year has elapsed and that investigation has not been completed. “The investigation is still ongoing and we hope to complete it in the near future,” Escamilla said.

That’s cold comfort for the seven members who were on the City Council when the story broke. With a statute of limitations of two years on the misdemeanor offenses they may have committed, they remain in legal limbo until Escamilla wraps up his investigation and determines how he will proceed.

In The Austin Bulldog’s exclusive interview published February 2, 2011—which included an edited transcript and an unedited audio recording—Martinez admitted to participating in these meetings since he was first elected to the council in 2006.

“I think the meetings are important, and we do talk about where our differences lie. If there are some strong feelings and strong differences, the time to air those out and figure those out are in our one-on-ones and not necessarily on the dais,” Martinez said in the interview. “We try to achieve that level of understanding so that on Thursday we can minimize the line of questioning, and the debate, and move forward through the agenda.”

Martinez said he never questioned the meeting process and did not view it as an “intentional violation of the spirit of the open meeting act.”

E-mail problems and evasions

In February 2011, thousands of e-mail exchanges between Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Martinez and other council members were released in response to open records requests filed by The Austin Bulldog and Austin American-Statesman. Many of these e-mails were sent while on the dais in council meetings and contained unflattering remarks about city staff members and citizens, including Martinez calling City Manager Marc Ott and Assistant City Manager Michael McDonald “jokes.”

On March 1, 2011, The Austin Bulldog sued Leffingwell, each council member, and the City of Austin for not releasing all e-mail exchanges requested under the Texas Public Information Act.

The lawsuit stemmed from The Austin Bulldog’s open records requests of January 19 and 27, 2011, for e-mails, letters, memoranda, notes, or other forms of written communication from the mayor and each council member to any council member or the mayor from January 1, 2010, through the date of the requests.

The city said it would not turn over e-mails about city business these elected officials sent or received on personal e-mail accounts. As a result of the lawsuit, however, the mayor and council members eventually released varying amounts of these e-mails.

Some of the 2,400 pages of 2009 e-mails provided to The Austin Bulldog as a result of a later open records request showed that council members communicated among themselves about city business in numbers equaling or exceeding a quorum, a possible open meetings violation.

The Austin Bulldog’s two lawsuits are both still pending.

The Data

Michael William Martinez

Birth date: August 1, 1969

Age: 42

Current office: Place 2 council member since June 2006, mayor pro-tem from June 2009 to June 2011

Office sought: Place 2 council member

Office salary: $64,043 a year plus a $5,400 annual car allowance

Office e-mail: [email protected]

Office telephone: 512-974-2264

Austin Fire Department personnel records (68 pages)

Board of directors, current: Chairman of the Capital Metro Board of Directors and member of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) Development Corporation, Austin Housing Finance Corporation Board of Directors, Mueller Local Government Corporation, Austin Firefighters Relief and Outreach Fund, Police Activities League of Austin (not updated to reflect that he is no longer the mayor pro tem)

Board of directors and organizations past: Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, National Coalition Building Institute trainer

Calendars reflecting his official duties:


2011 through September

Campaign finance reports

2009 re-election campaign

2010-2011 officeholder account

2012 re-election campaign

Campaign staff:

Sylvia Camarillo, campaign manager

Celia Israel, campaign treasurer

Mark Littlefield of Littlefield Consulting, campaign consultant

City staff: Robert A. “Bobby” Garza, chief of staff; Andrew Moore, council aide; Laura Williamson, executive assistant

Council committees: Audit and Finance Committee, Judicial Committee, Minority-Owned Business Enterprise and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Subcommittee, Public Health and Human Services Subcommittee

Education: Records indicate that Martinez is currently enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin, but has never received a college degree. He attended Temple College from fall 1987 to spring 1988, and went on to attend Austin Community College until 1992. ACC is still in the process of confirming whether Martinez received EMT certification at the school. He received nine UT credit hours in 2003 for his participation in a leadership program led by two UT professors through the Austin Police Department. To read records pertaining to his education click here.


2009 city e-mail account

2010 and January 2011 city e-mail account

2010 and January 2011 personal e-mail account

NAACP ethics complaint

NAACP complaint dismissal

Personal financial statements:

Mike Martinez 2008 through 2010 (City Code)

Mike Martinez 2011 mid-year update (City Code)

Mike Martinez 2006-2010 (State Law, Chapter 145)

Political party: Democrat

Property records

Current home owned in East Austin

Home under construction in East Austin and building permit

Home formerly owned in San Leanna

Travis County Grantee Records (property acquired)

Travis County Grantor Records (property sold)


Martinez married Lisa Lynne Kirkpatrick in 1995. She is now associate vice president for of Student Affairs and dean of students at St. Edward’s University. Kirkpatrick filed for divorce in July 2003 after more than eight years of marriage, citing a “discord or conflict of personalities.” The two share custody of their 13-year-old son, Alejandro Liam Martinez. To see the divorce decree, click here.

Martinez married Lara Wendler, legislative director for State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), in November 2008. To see the marriage certificate, click here.

Texas Ethics Commission Order and Agreed Resolution

Voter registration application and voter history

Web pages:

Campaign website: http://www.mikemartinezforaustin.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Martinez/44306542526
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemartinez (not updated to indicate he is no longer mayor pro tem)
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CouncilManMike
City of Austin bio: http://www.austintexas.gov/biography/council-member (This bio is no longer published.)
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

Stories involving Martinez

Links to stories (most recent first). Note: The Austin American-Statesman articles linked here that are identified as being archived may be accessed through the Austin Public Library’s online databases. Access is free but requires a library card number to view. You must log in on the library site for these links to work (click on the article link, enter your library card number, and that will take you to the article). Or, alternatively, Statesman articles can be accessed by searching the newspaper’s online archives and creating a user account.

Martinez’s Focus: Improving East Austin; Two-term incumbent draws strong support for campaign kickoff event, The Austin Bulldog, January 27, 2012

Pressley settles on Martinez, The Austin Chronicle, January 27, 2012

Open Meetings Investigation a Year Old Today: County Attorney Says Investigation of Whether City Council Violated Open Meetings Act Is Still Ongoing, The Austin Bulldog, January 25, 2012

It’s Pressley vs. Martinez: First-time council candidate to oppose city council’s only Hispanic incumbent, The Austin Bulldog, January 21, 2011

Austin City Council member victim of vandalism, Austin American-Statesman, December 21, 2011

Spelman, Martinez launch re-election campaigns, Austin American-Statesman, November 17, 2011

City program has spent millions to improve East Austin neighborhood, but has it helped?, Austin American-Statesman, August 29, 2011

Council Member Martinez Reports Big Gains in Financial Assets: May Have Failed to Report Major Investments in Last Annual Report, The Austin Bulldog, August 17, 2011

E-mails exchanged by council members expose private deliberations and political maneuvering, The Austin Bulldog, July 6, 2011

Activists hunt for payback nets small fines, Austin American-Statesman archives, July 4, 2011

Treasure Trove of Public Documents Made Available in Searchable Format: E-mails, Text Messages, Meeting Notes Obtained Through Open Records, LawsuitThe Austin Bulldog, May 12, 2011

Martinez posts ballot on Facebook, Austin American-Statesman, May 3, 2011

Cap Metro readying for legislative labor shake-up: Analysis shows Senate bill gutting union could save agency $10 million a year, Austin American-Statesman April 29, 2011

In new e-mail release, more name-calling but no clear violations of open government laws, Austin American-Statesman, April 8, 2011

The Austin Bulldog Files Civil Complaint Against City of Austin and Council Members: Travis County Attorney David Escamilla Has Authority to Force Compliance, The Austin Bulldog, March 23, 2011

Martinez: I’m sorry for e-mails, Austin American-Statesman archives, March 12, 2011

Council sued over records, Austin-American Statesman archives, March 3, 2011

The Austin Bulldog Files Lawsuit to Compel Compliance With the Law: Mayor and City Council Members Not in Compliance With Statutes for Public Information, Records Retention, The Austin Bulldog, March 2, 2011

NAACP files ethics complaint against Leffingwell, Martinez, YNN-TV, February 28, 2011

Council releases revealing e-mails: Communications show hard feelings, harsh words; raise questions on open meetings, Austin American-Statesman, February 26, 2011

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez Goes On the Record About Private Meetings, The Austin Bulldog, February 2, 2011

Braced for the gathering storm, Austin American-Statesman, January 28, 2011

Open Meetings, Closed Minds: Private Meetings to Discuss Public Business Shows Austin City Council May Be Violating Open Meetings Act, The Austin Bulldog, January 25, 2011

Cap Metro Promises to Be Good: Transit agency formally responds to Sunset findings, The Austin Chronicle, May 14, 2010

Two long shots face incumbents, Austin American-Statesman archives, April 20, 2009

Plans could put teeth in campaign finance rules, Austin American-Statesman archives, August 23, 2008

East Austin can’t bear all city burdens, Austin American-Statesman archives, June 26, 2008

City-led Latino quality-of-life initiative sought, Austin American-Statesman archives, May 8, 2008

Emotions run high as council approves East Austin shelter, Austin American-Statesman archives, October 12, 2007

Councilman’s family injured in hit and run, Austin American-Statesman archives, October 10, 2006

Victors credit grassroots work, Austin American-Statesman archives, May 15, 2006

As council race goes ahead, hopefuls squabble over past, Austin American-Statesman archives,
April 13, 2006

City, firefighters, union strike deal: Compromise on three-year contract still needs approval by union’s members, the City Council, Austin American-Statesman archives, October 6, 2005

Sparks fly over firefighters’ pay, Austin American-Statesman archives, August 20, 2005

Collective bargaining for firefighters; firefighters celebrate victory, Austin American-Statesman archives, May 16, 2004

Editor Ken Martin contributed to this article.

This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help sustain this kind of reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.

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