SAN DIEGO — Abruptly abandoning a battle to clear his name and keep his job, City Councilman Uvaldo Martinez pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony counts of misusing a city credit card and promised to resign from office within six weeks.
Martinez--a San Diego-area native who was a city planner before his appointment to the council in December, 1982--faces a maximum penalty of one year in County Jail and a $20,000 fine under an agreement reached with county prosecutors.
Martinez, 43, had been under a cloud for more than a year, since reports surfaced that he had falsified city expense reports by listing as guests people who said they had not shared meals and drinks with the councilman.
But when he was indicted in March on 28 counts of misappropriating and falsely accounting for public funds, Martinez insisted that he was only guilty of errors in judgment and poor bookkeeping.
He declined to say Thursday why he had decided to admit his guilt. "I hope you never have to go through this," he told reporters in a court house hallway after entering the guilty pleas. "If you do, you'll find it's kind of a human thing."
The plea-bargain agreement envisions a reduction of the charges against Martinez to misdemeanors if his conduct during the year following sentencing is proper. This would allow him to regain his rights to vote and hold office.
But the councilman agreed not to run for public office for the duration of any probation to which he is sentenced Nov. 13 by San Diego Superior Court Judge Barbara Gamer, who presided at Thursday's hearing.
Martinez refused to say when he would resign. "I think it really depends on the state of business in the office," he said. "I intend to carry through on some of the legislative interest I have."