No city business was discussed during a $98.13 meal that San Diego City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez paid for with his city charge card, according to a couple who were asked to join Martinez and his wife for dinner on Dec. 1 at The Butcher Shop Steak House.
John Cunningham, head baseball coach at the University of San Diego, and his wife, Nancy, had no idea that they were being treated to dinner at public expense. Nancy Cunningham said the most eventful part of the evening occurred when a waiter brought a birthday cake for Martinez.
While city records indicate that Martinez discussed "expansion of USD sports complex" during the dinner, Martinez said Saturday night that he talked about the trouble John Cunningham had in raising money to build a new baseball field.
But Nancy Cunningham said, "There would be no reason for John to explain that. The field is beautiful the way it is."
Meanwhile, six more people said Saturday that they did not eat meals that Martinez paid for using his city charge account. That brings to 13 the number of public officials, business people and civic leaders who have thus far challenged the accuracy of records Martinez filed with the city auditor's department, saying they did not eat meals with Martinez on the dates reported.
Councilman Mike Gotch, Poway Mayor Bob Emery and attorney Louis Wolfsheimer are among those who said Saturday that they did not dine with Martinez on the dates he listed on city records.
Wolfsheimer said he was in London on May 30, when city records show he was dining with Martinez at Dobson's Bar & Restaurant and discussing the San Diego convention center. Wolfsheimer said he has run into Martinez at Dobson's on occasion but could not recall that the councilman ever picked up the tab.
Emery said he has never eaten at Los Arcos in Escondido, where Martinez claims he bought a $37.44 meal on May 28 for Emery and Poway City Manager Jim Bowersox, who also said he has never eaten at the restaurant. Emery said he can not recall ever eating a meal with Martinez.
Gotch said he did not have "white wine and salad" at Dobson's Dec. 12 with Martinez and Colorado State Sen. Donald Sandoval, as Martinez has claimed. "I remember meeting the senator there," Gotch said. "Uvaldo and I were having a drink. But we did not dine together. I recall Uvaldo saying this is the state senator from Colorado. That was the beginning and the end of it."
But Martinez insisted that Gotch ate at his table. "As a matter of fact, Mike offered to pick up his portion of it," Martinez said. "I said, 'No Mike. It's OK. I'll pick it up on my card.' "
Gotch said he does not believe Martinez was intentionally providing false information, but he added, "I didn't have a sense it was serious. Uvaldo has always been gregarious and been generous. I was surprised to hear his generosity included the municipal credit card. It does appear something is unfolding that is greater than any of us expected."
Martinez said Saturday night that only 13 of about 75 meals listed on city records have been questioned. "It's very possible that disorganization and bad record-keeping on my part may be a factor. I'm not ready to say that until I examine my records . . . . The only thing I'm sure of is what I did was a legitimate city expense and I reported it. In fact, these questions wouldn't be asked if I had not reported it."
He attributed the bookkeeping discrepancies to "a thoroughly disorganized councilman who obviously will have to take a real hard look at how he handles these matters, and that includes certainly a more prudent use of city credit cards."
A check last week of city records found that Martinez used a city-issued credit card between July 1, 1984, and June 30, 1985, to run up bills of $6,369. Rudy Murillo, Martinez's aide, used a city credit card to spend $3,132 during the same period, bringing the total for both men to $9,501. The money is paid from funds set aside to run Martinez's council office.
The value of meals charged by Martinez exceeds the combined amount spent by Councilmen Gotch ($2,468), William Jones ($930), Bill Mitchell ($928) and Mayor Roger Hedgecock ($608) on their city credit cards, records show. Councilwoman Gloria McColl said she does not use a city credit card. Council members also are reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.
But the dinner with the Cunninghams could prove most devastating to Martinez.
City Atty. John Witt said Friday night that he would turn over any evidence of fraud to the district attorney's office for investigation. "If there is a falsification and these things didn't happen the way they're presented on paper, there would be at least a suspicion that there was a theft of public funds."