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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Editorial Editorial (July 02, 2004)

City Attorney has an ethical lapse

City Attorney Michael Martello's carefully laid cover story about the timing of his affair with Pamela Read, the general manager of Foothill Disposal, the city's garbage company, is unraveling.

Martello informed the city council by memo April 16 about his involvement with Read, and later told the Voice "I let them know within a week, two weeks for sure, of even casually seeing her." That puts the start of the affair about April 1, much later than husband Michael C. Read's timetable, which claims:

-- The Reads met and chatted casually with Martello Feb. 21 at the Mardi Gras benefit for the city library. Michael Read said it was obvious to him that the two had known each other for some time;

-- On March 13, Pamela Read asked her husband for a divorce, explaining that she had been in a serious relationship with Martello that included a sexual meeting March 5.

The time issue and other allegations by Michael Read, including Martello's misuse of city credit cards and cell phones, are high on the list of topics to be investigated by the council's ad hoc ethics committee, which has already held two meetings and will hold several more before reporting back to the council.

The key question is whether Martello's relationship with Pamela Read does constitute a conflict of interest, and whether he used his high city position before his acknowledged liaison to advance the 8.95 percent rate increase just obtained by Foothill Disposal on its $9-million contract. Martello maintains that he had no involvement with the rate increase, which came in the second year of an eight-year contract with the city. Other than write the original agreement in 1993, Martello said that he has had nothing to do with the contract.

That appears to be true, but all the allegations certainly warrant a thorough probe by the committee and its advisor, Michael Jenkins, a Southern California lawyer with experience in such matters.

Beyond that, the committee should be concerned about the apparent delay in Martello's notification to the council about the potential conflict of interest caused by his relationship with Pamela Read. In fact, the timing indicates that Martello only notified the city after Read was temporarily removed by Foothill, in order to let council members know and be able to address the issue when Foothill officials asked questions about a potential conflict.

Read was apparently reinstated after Foothill officers determined that the city was not concerned about her relationship with Martello and that it would not endanger the company's contract with the city.

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