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Columns
05.19.10

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News Briefs


You Eat With That Mouth?

The 2002 police report that details a threatening voicemail left by Watsonville City Councilman and District 4 Supervisor candidate Emilio Martinez reads like a scene out of Goodfellas.

Using a grand total of 15 F-bombs deftly placed among 12 sentences, Martinez makes it clear that one Joe Norris, a former colleague at Indian Motorcycles in Gilroy, ought to tender his resignation.

"You don't quit or they don't fu**in' fire you[r] fat, motherfu**ckin' Nazi motherfu**ckin' fat ass, I'm going to shoot you," reads a partial transcript of the voicemail. "I'm gonna blow that motherfu**in' place up. You got a bullet hole through your heart already."

The phone message led to Martinez being charged with "false report of planting bomb" and "threats to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily injury," both misdemeanors. Martinez, however, never answered to a judge.

The incident came to light late last month when the Sentinel uncovered an arrest warrant issued in 2002 by the Superior Court of Santa Clara County but never served by the Gilroy police. Martinez will be arraigned on the charges and the warrant June 29 at the courthouse in Morgan Hill.

Meanwhile, his campaign for county supe, which sees him in a three-way race with Watsonville Councilman Greg Caput against longtime incumbent Tony Campos, is struggling to shrug off the scandal.

Martinez maintains that the phone call—news of which he claims was leaked to the Sentinel by the Campos campaign—was all in jest.

"It was a prank. We used to do this to each other all the time," says Martinez, who writes on his blog that the president of Indian Motorcycle still calls him up and leaves similar prank messages on a regular basis.

Martinez also claims he was "tricked" by the Sentinel into coming in for an endorsement meeting, then confronted about the warrant (a claim Sentinel reporter Donna Jones confirms, although she says he was not tricked and that it was in fact a "legitimate endorsement meeting.")

Martinez continues: "The issue here is: Was there was a warrant for my arrest? Yes. Did I know it? No. I wasn't aware of it. Had I been aware of it I would have taken care of it. It's unethical to write that article just before absentee ballots go out. It's a smear campaign by Campos."

At the Campos camp, the accusations were brushed off. "It didn't come from me. I had nothing to do with it," says Campos. "The first I heard of it was in the paper. Actions speak for themselves and he should be held accountable. I run a good campaign."

Despite the controversy, Martinez says he remains very confident about the election. "I guarantee I'll win," he says.

—Curtis Cartier

Peace in the Valley

South County was awash in warm fuzzies last week with the announcement that the small but pugnacious Pajaro-Sunny Mesa Community Services District had dropped its two lawsuits against the embattled Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency.

In a joint statement, PVWMA general manager Mary Bannister said the two parties had "buried the hatchet," while Pajaro–Sunny Mesa GM Joe Rosa referred to the need to "join hands" with "our friends at PVWMA."

At issue was Pajaro–Sunny Mesa's 2008 lawsuit seeking immediate repayment of an $80-per-acre-foot fee that was ruled illegal in 2007. That ruling stuck the agency with a $13 million repayment obligation to various individuals and districts. Pajaro–Sunny Mesa said it was owed $326,000 of that.

In December, settlement talks went awry as Pajaro–Sunny Mesa tripled its demand to nearly $1 million (the extra in the form of interest and legal fees)—a sum agency lawyer Tony Condotti more or less described as obnoxious. "To put it charitably, it seems like a substantial overreach," he told the Sentinel. After the settlement talks collapsed, Pajaro–Sunny Mesa sued again.

But now there's peace in the valley. As we dabbed at our eyes, one statement caught our attention.

"We at Pajaro–Sunny Mesa have re-evaluated the lawsuits against the PVWMA," Rosa said. "After much soul-searching we agreed that the best course of action is to settle the litigation and to move forward as a partner with the agency."

Soul-searching? Really? Maybe "résumé-searching" is more like it, as in "desperately seeking a new board of directors." In the last 12 months, three of Pajaro–Sunny Mesa's five board members have been quietly replaced, leaving a less litigious majority in charge.

In the end, the agency will pay Pajaro-Sunny Mesa about $400,000, while the district will fork over some $110,000 in unpaid fees to the agency. Call it a peace dividend.

—Traci Hukill


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