The Rise and Fall of Tribal Administrator Rodney Martin

Published by carolyn on Sun, 2014-02-09 20:12

By Carolyn Yeager

Here is the story, as best I can put it together from the record of the Porterville Recorder, of Rodney Martin’s career with the Tule River Indian Tribe and their attempts to have an off-reservation Card Room. I am sorry it has to be so long, but it necessarily has to come from the newspaper reports since I know nothing first hand, of my own accord. I was not there.

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Pictured right: The real Rodney Martin - taken in 2012 and published on his own website, not photo-shopped. Don't blame me.

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Rodney Martin continues to say that he was working with the Tule River Indian Tribe on a consultant basis and was involved in helping work out an Airport Authority agreement between the city of Porterville, Ca and the reservation. Yet in the Porterville Recorder newspaper articles since 2007, Martin comes up mostly in connection with the “card room” project – a gambling venue associated with the Tribe’s on-reservations casino “Eagle Mountain.”

It appears that Martin was always employed in some form of government service, and from there went directly into full-time employment by the Tule River Indians as their administrator in August 2006. That employment appears to have ended sometime around the fall of 2008, if not summer … so he was employed for about two years.

Nowhere in the Porterville Recorder‘s 100 archived articles/letters by or about Rodney Martin is it ever stated that he is an independent contractor or consultant. It’s certainly possible he set up a consulting business, just like he sets up associations, “foundations,” and networks which are not serious contenders as money-making entities.

In the following articles from the Recorder of Nov. 2007 to Feb. 2010, we find some interesting clues as to why Martin was so enthusiastic about his position as Administrator for the Tule River Tribe. I’ll start with an article from Nov. 24, 2007. RM had been on the job for over a year and things were well underway.

The boldface throughout  is mine, along with my comments in blue.

http://www.recorderonline.com/card-room-license-sale-challenged/article_4b3b7671-e9e0-57a3-870e-189f23a9d737.html

Card room license sale challenged

Posted: Saturday, November 24, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 8:19 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

BY SARAH ELIZABETH VILLICANA

A resident and member of the Porterville Parks and Leisure Commission is accusing a city councilman of bad business.

Greg Shelton appeared before the Porterville City Council Tuesday alleging Felipe Martinez has voted on agenda items when he had a financial conflict of interest. The conflict, Shelton claimed, concerns the councilman’s role in brokering the sale of a card room license to the Tule River Tribe.

City and tribe officials and Martinez himself have denied Shelton’s claims of wrongdoing.

“For the sale of this license the city councilman received compensation for his part negotiating this contract,” Shelton said.

Earlier this week Shelton presented the City Council with copies of an unsigned sales contract between James L. Podergois, an owner of The Mint bar and card room and the Tule River Tribe.

The contract spells out the details of the sale of a card room license for the sum of $800,0000 payable to Podergois in two installments. The payments are dated for period ending Jan. 1, 2007.

On Friday Podergois said the transfer of the license has been completed. He did not wish to comment further. The documents were copies of a fax dated Jan. 3, 2007 according to an attached New York Life Co. cover sheet from Martinez’s office.

“As I did some research I learned that the city councilman continued to vote on items concerning the main parties involved in a deal he made money off of,” Shelton said.

Martinez on Monday confirmed he acted as broker for the sale and received payment for his services at the beginning of this calendar year. He also responded to allegations of unethical voting practices.

“I’ve excused myself from voting on anything that could have been perceived as a conflict of interest,” Martinez said. “I have done nothing wrong.”

Martinez said he believes the contract is being used in an attempt to tarnish his reputation. He said he has spoken with the city attorney, who he said confirmed he had not violated any rules or regulation. Should a city councilman be making money off of “brokering deals” that he is asked to do only because he is a city councilman? While he may not have broken any rules, it is not ethical.

The contract papers themselves are at issue because the originals are part of file reported stolen from the tribal office. Turns out it was not stolen.

Tribal police official Lt. Thomas Ludwig is conducting a federal investigation into the missing papers and any suspects who may have been involved in the theft. Details relating to the nature of any additional documents that were taken has not been released.

Included in the documents presented by Shelton was a copy of selected minutes from past Council actions involving the tribe and the Brickhouse. The Brickhouse is a new restaurant and bar owned by a group of investors which includes Podergois.

According to the records provided by Shelton, Martinez abstained from voting on at least two items concerning the Brickhouse, citing a conflict of interest.

Items involving the tribe that Martinez did vote on included:

a resolution of support for cross deputization of the tribe’s police force,

a grant application for the tribe to receive continued funding for police and fire staff,

a city ordinance concerning card room regulations and

council direction to staff to communicate with the Tribal Council to acquire surplus lighting equipment.

City Manager John Longley said he is not aware of Martinez having any conflicts of interest on city matters in which he has cast a vote.

Shelton also claimed Martinez tried to mask his part in the sale of the license by being paid through a third party.

Tule Tribe Administrator Rodney Martin was at Tuesday’s Council meeting for an unrelated matter. He addressed the Board in response to the claims, essentially calling them baseless.

“The facts have been investigated prior to  any statements made by the person who spoke just prior,” Martin told council members. “I would hope that you keep that in mind prior to any action and that you wouldn’t rush to the lowest common denominator.” What Rodney Martin calls “facts” when he is in battle-mode  are not recognized as such by most people.

On Wednesday Martin said he is planning to make all the details of the card room sale available in an effort to put to rest any rumors of dishonest conduct. [...]~~

Three days later …

http://www.recorderonline.com/background-released-on-license-sale/article_ca0b4806-5ac8-58dd-

Background released on license sale

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 8:15 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

By SARAH ELIZABETH VILLICANA

As tribal officials released details on the controversial purchase of a card room license, the focus shifts to new allegations against a Porterville businesswoman. We will find that this is Mary McLure and the allegations come from Rodney Martin. This is the tactic of  “Answer legitimate questions with attack”  that Martin favors.

Tule Tribe Administrator Rodney Martin on Monday released a time line of events detailing each step of the license acquisition and subsequent events leading to an ongoing federal investigation and allegation of misconduct on the part of a city councilman. The councilman is Felipe Martinez who is not the object of Martin’s concern.

“What we have seen in the last month or so has been attempts by … individuals to disrupt positive growth and projects by the tribe for personal agendas and enrichment,” Martin said in a prepared statement. Here Martin is pointing the finger away from himself — using language and behavior we are so familiar with in him.

Martin said the time line shows what he perceives as a link between the rejection of a business proposal and the theft of tribal documents. According to Martin’s report, on Oct. 18 the tribe received an unsolicited proposal for the sale of property for use as a card room for $1.9 million.

“The owner of this property took it upon themselves to inject themselves [sic] into the tribe’s card room process, even contacting state gaming officials and local officials,” Martin said. “Probably all of these innuendos and rumors emerging would not be taking place today if someone had not injected themselves from outside the regular process.”

Martin did not name the property owner and referred to them only as “the individual.Martin had the same style in 2007 as he has today!! As I’ve said before, his hallmark is pointing to people and implicating them in unsavory things without himself ever naming them.

After rejecting the proposal, Martin said, the individual allegedly made threats against both tribal officials and their family members, urging officials to change the direction of the project. Martin today likes to tell us how even his wife has been harassed and threatened.

After a file was reportedly stolen containing a draft of the sales contract for a card room license, Martin alleges the individual who submitted the proposal passed the draft contract to at least two people to create suspicion in response to the tribe rejecting the initial offer. Martin is accusing an unnamed individual of being complicit in a crime.

Included in the documents released by Martin was a redacted copy of the $1.9 million proposal submitted to the Tribal Council.

The property, located in the county, is described as having a large room, its own bar and large outside patio with a second room and bar separated by a large kitchen. A $1.9 million price tag includes the 10,000–square–foot building with karaoke equipment, pool tables and arcade games.

Mary McClure, owner of Charlie’s Pizza Kitchen, confirmed Monday that she submitted a proposal to the tribe for the sale of Charlie’s. She said it was the tribe who initiated talks.

They contacted me and looked at the place,” McClure said Monday evening. “They wanted to put a card room out there.” Mary McClure may be too honest in her business dealings for Rodney’s comfort.

[...]

Martin on Monday clarified in his statement that no Porterville city councilman has ever acted as the tribe’s agent or broker on the tribe’s card room project nor has the tribe paid any brokerage fee or commission for the acquisition of the license.

Martinez declined to reveal who did pay his commission but said Martin’s statement was accurate.

McClure said she believes Martin is revealing more information about the sale of the license to distract from what she considers to be the real issue. Does Martin use distraction techniques? Absolutely yes.

“Rodney is trying to blow things out of proportion,” McClure said. “This has nothing to do with a card room license. It’s all about payola. It’s about Felipe Martinez taking money for a sale and voting on stuff.”

McClure said she has been contacted twice by a tribal police officer. When asked if she circulated copies of the draft, she said she had the right to know about Martinez’s commission.

“It’s my business if a councilman took $10,000 in payola,” McClure said. “That’s not Indian business. That’s our business down here in Porterville. Don’t accuse me of anything because I haven’t done nothing wrong.”

Martin said the investigation into the theft of tribal documents is ongoing and will be referred to the FBI and Office of the U.S. Attorney at the appropriate time. He said tribal officials who were allegedly subjected to extortion and threats plan to take separate civil and criminal actions.~~

The following week two city council meetings occurred on subsequent days. The first, on Dec. 4th, featured an admission and apology from Felipe Martinez and further information from Mary McClure.

http://www.recorderonline.com/face-off-at-city-hall/article_d6bbc47c-836e-5d94-b90d-462d25b3a61c.html

Face-off at city hall

Posted: Tuesday, December 4, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 8:19 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

By SARAH ELIZABETH VILLICANA

A City Council member [has] once again defended himself against allegations of misconduct.

Mayor Pro-tem Felipe Martinez read from a prepared statement prior to the council receiving public comment tonight, addressing the economic benefit he received from the sale of the city’s only card room license.

His statement was followed by a lengthy presentation from businesswoman Mary McClure, who concluded by asking  Martinez if he plans to step down from office

Martinez revealed he was paid by David Gonzales, a business associate of James Podergois and part owner of the Brickhouse restaurant and bar, for services he provided in connection with the card room license sale.

Since I did not receive any compensation from the tribe, I voted on issues regarding the tribe,” Martinez said.

He said he abstained from voting on items involving the party who did in fact pay him.

“Having said this, and prior to the Nov. 20 City Council meeting, I requested the city attorney ask the FPPC [California Fair Political Practices Commission] to provide written advice concerning future agenda items of all parties involved,” Martinez said. “The FPPC is an impartial and unemotional entity and whatever ruling they hand down, I will gladly accept.”

Martinez went on to apologize to the community, city staff and to his colleagues for the apparent unease resulting from this “situation.”

McClure, who also read from a prepared statement, responded to allegations [Rodney's] that she had attempted to interject herself into the tribe’s negotiations for a card room site. She stated representatives of the tribe, at one time, came to her seeking a building that could accommocate 50 card tables.

McClure, who owns Charlie’s Pizza Kitchen, accused Tribal Administrator Rodney Martin of blocking her from speaking to the Tribal Council and trying to take business away from her pizza kitchen. As for the copies of documents she is in possession of — which were allegedly stolen from tribal offices — McClure said they were left for her.

Along with McClure’s statement to the council on Tuesday, she presented a previously uncirculated document that appears to be a project update from Martin to the Tribal Council.

The memo describes a deal where the tribe would receive the completed part of the Sea Food Cafe in exchange for a loan to the owners of the restaurant that would go toward developing the remaining portion of the building.

Martin said the information on the document, dated Oct. 5, is inaccurate and that the tribe plans to rent a 400-square-foot space inside the building — and presented a memo to the city stating so, dated Dec. 2. Martin misleadingly uses the word “inaccurate” for something he did write at one time, but since has written something else.

An agenda item relating to the future card room was continued until January. [...]~~

The next article appears the following day; we see Rodney Martin fighting to keep his little empire going. The dismissive, arrogant style he assumes is the same as he exhibits now to me, Carolyn Yeager, as I bring attention to details he doesn’t want anyone to pay attention to.

http://www.recorderonline.com/another-round-of-play-in-card-room-license-dispute/article_f01e4084-9557-54c8-93c8-f7c42818702b.html

Another round of play in card room license dispute

Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 8:11 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

By SARAH ELIZABETH VILLICANA

Tule River Tribe Administrator Rodney Martin is striking back against the most recent onslaught of allegations surrounding the purchase of a card room license.

“I was fully expecting to hear who killed JFK,” Martin said today about the accusing tone of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “It’s unfortunate that people choose to engage in emotionally charged oversimplifications.” Always the trick word: oversimplification.

At least three people addressed the City Council alleging Mayor Pro-tem Felipe Martinez engaged in unethical behavior when he received payment from David Gonzales for services related to the sale of a card room license to the Tule River Indian Tribe. Rodney was closely associated with Martinez who was voting in favor of all tribal issues.

Martin said the Tule River Tribe intends to pursue more business opportunities than it ever has and that it could make some in the community uncomfortable.

The acquisition of the card room license itself has taken the tribe into unchartered territory, Martin said.

The state regulates local card rooms under guidelines established for Class 2 gambling licenses, while tribal gambling is governed by Class 3 licensing procedures. Martin said a major hurdle for any tribe looking to take on a Class 2 license is a state regulation prohibiting any link to a Class 3 gambling enterprise such as Eagle Mountain Casino.

The solution for the tribe was to establish the card room exclusively to generate funds for a non-profit institution.

Once the card room is in operation, according to Martin, all proceeds will go to benefit the future Tule River elementary school, serving grades kindergarten through third. The school, located at the former Porterville Adult School site, currently operates as an after-school study center. And all kinds of money will be lavished on this school, right? Nothing too good for the little kiddies. A perfect opportunity for channeling money to politicians and administrators.

Recall that the Porterville Adult School Superintendent was Bob PerezSee http://www.recorderonline.com/tribe-purchases-school/article_57334127-484a-5886-8954-324393be1e2f.html Tribe purchases school …  Naysayers or not, Porterville Adult School director Bob Perez, who was not in attendance at the meeting, believes the purchase and the move toward a new school is a good one for many reasons. “I’m just so excited about this,” Perez said last week. “From my vantage point, I’ve said this is a good move and these are the reasons why:  It establishes the reservation’s presence in the Porterville community and they won’t be isolated, the area is centrally located in Porterville, and they can better serve the student population at Porterville High because of the existing after-school program.”

“This has never been done before,” Martin said of a tribe operating a Class 2 card room license. “There’s no precedent. Once this is all done and the precedent has been set I think you are going to see a lot of tribes purchasing card room licenses.”

Martin responded today to claims made by Mary McClure during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

In response to McClure’s description of a meeting between herself and the tribe’s financial director, David Liu, in mid-October, Martin said the incident never took place. Flat out saying Mary is crazy or a liar. Except that she successfully runs a business, while Martin has always worked for government. Which is the best place for thieves of public monies?

No member of the tribe’s staff initiated discussions or negotiations with Charlie’s Pizza Kitchen,” Martin said. “It’s completely false.”

McClure responded to Martin’s statement, saying tribal staff members have spoken with her about using the large room at Charlie’s for a card room that would accommodate 50 tables — an assertion Martin said is not only untrue but impractical.

We purchased a license for three card tables,” Martin said. “She made a representation she could work to secure the 50 tables. If you look at the demographics, this area couldn’t sustain 50 tables.”

Martin wouldn’t know about negotiations over Charlie’s, McClure said, because he was never present.

He must not have talked to anyone,” McClure said. “He’s trying to save face. I don’t lie and he’s still out to lunch.

Martin said in recent months the tribe has rejected offers for the sale of properties owned by McClure.

I guarantee you if we had accepted one of her unsolicited proposals, none of this would be happening right now,” he said.~~ This type of response, that intends to close off further debate by claiming the other person is motivated out of some kind of revenge, is the same as what he uses with me. Rodney’s game is to discredit what Mary is saying by discrediting her motives, by accusing her of simple “sour grapes” for losing out on the card room. We don’t know if she even wanted it, or was just relating what happened.

We also see here Rodney’s penchant for “taking charge” and insisting on being the only spokesperson for the tribe.

In February, Rodney Martin’s preference for the Seafood Cafe found some success.

http://www.recorderonline.com/seafood-cafe-llc-gets-ok-for-changes-to-floor-plan/article_a8341604-71de-5475-9128-6e52b0c1d73b.html

Seafood Cafe LLC gets OK for changes to floor plan

Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 7:41 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

By SARAH ELIZABETH VILLICANA

Despite heavy scrutiny Tuesday from both Porterville City Council members and the public, council members approved changes to the floor plan of the Seafood Cafe to allow for a multi–purpose room. The restaurant, at the site of the former Olive Avenue Bowl, also operates as the El Reventon Night Club.

After two continued public hearings, Luis Farias, one of the owners of the Seafood Cafe, said he was happy to see the request finally meet with city approved. “I definitely think we’ve gone above and beyond,” Farias said. “If that’s what it takes.”
The original request from restaurant owners to modify the existing floor plan and extend hours of operation first came before the council in December. During a public meeting in December, several people expressed concerns about noise and safety impacts.
[…]

Owners of the Seafood Cafe and Rodney Martin, Tule River tribal administrator, have stated previously that the room may be the future site of a card room.

Ortiz clarified that approval of the CUP modification did not authorize use of the facility as a card room.“The modification is only to the existing floor plan,” Ortiz said. “Approval of future use, specifically as a card room, requires a whole separate process through the Bureau of Gambling Control Commission and the Chief of Police.”

The owners of Seafood Cafe will have 60 days to complete specified requirements of Phase I of the project, including landscaping and parking lot improvements.

The resolution allowing modification of the floor plan for the Seafood Cafe was passed 3–0 with Mayor Cameron Hamilton and Mayor Pro-tem Felipe Martinez abstaining.~~

But two years later, it all turned out differently. We don’t know why, but at some point in 2008 Rodney Martin was no longer Tule River Tribal Administrator. In a January 16, 2009 article in the Recorder, he was referred to as “the former Tule River Tribal Administrator.”  Sam Cohen took over from Martin and there were some lawsuits that ensued about irregular financial payments.  In the end, the card room became a reality at The Mint on West Olive Avenue. Here is the story from the Recorder:

http://www.recorderonline.com/card-room-license-suit-settled/article_4b2620e0-f1a9-5a43-86b2-d7106f3b5788.html

Card room license suit settled

Regulars gather Thursday night to play cards at The Mint on West Olive Avenue in Porterville. The Tule River Tribe has settled a lawsuit over the card room license for which it paid $800,000 for in 2007 [under Martin as administrator]. As a result of the settlement the Tribe now holds a deed to the Brickhouse Bar & Grill.

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:43 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

BY JENNA CHANDLER

The Tule River Tribe has reached a $425,000 settlement of a civil lawsuit with some Porterville entrepreneurs over a controversial card room license deal.

A sales agreement was struck in 2007 that would have transferred the card room license of The Mint to the tribe for $800,000. The Tribe’s lawsuit alleged that the money it paid for the card room was never returned after the state made a decision to not allow the transfer.

As a result of the settlement, the Tribe now holds a Deed of Trust on the property occupied by the Brickhouse Bar and Grill in downtown Porterville — and Brickhouse partners, including James Podergois and David Gonzales, do not have to pay back the $800,000 they received from the Tribe in January 2007. According to Podergois, the terms of the settlement agreement allow five years for $425,000 to be paid to the Tribe, which he said would likely require sale of the property.

[...]

The Tribe filed the lawsuit in October 2008; defendants named were James Podergois, individually and owner of The Mint Card Room and doing business as LBC Construction; the Brickhouse Bar and Grill, Inc. and four officers of that corporation — Podergois, David Gonzales, Sherry Arleene Gonzales, and Stephanie Ellen Winn.  Was Rodney Martin forced out before this lawsuit was filed because the deals he was overseeing did not work out in the Tribe’s favor? It does seem likely.

[...]

The state has placed a moratorium on issuing new card room licenses that is scheduled to last until Jan. 2015.

Most of the money received from the Tribe was invested in the Brickhouse Bar and Grill. The former Schortman’s Bicycle Shop and an adjacent property were remodeled extensively to create the popular downtown eatery and sports bar.

At the time the card room license sale was made public in November 2007, then Tribal Administrator Rodney Martin said the time frame of the sales contract with Podergois was “challenging,” but that he believed the Tribe would be able to complete the requirements or be granted an extension provided for in the sales agreement.

In copies of correspondence included as evidence in the civil suit, Podergois said the $800,000 should not have to not be returned because the Tribe had failed to secure the proper state approval for the card room within one year — a term of the sales agreement.

Documents filed in conjunction with the suit indicate that the Tribe attempted to negotiate an extension on its contract with David Gonzales proposing a new purchase price of $1.2 million in early December 2007, Podergois stating in correspondence it could be done for an additional $85,000 in February 2008, and an undated, unsigned document suggesting as much as a $3 million extension fee.

Eventually, the Tribe sued and the settlement reached in December places a Deed of Trust for the bar and restaurant property in the hands of the Tribe.

On Oct. 8, 2008, the Tribe demanded its $800,000 back from Podergois, stating “the consent of the tribe was not real, mutual or free in that it was obtained solely through mistake of law and fact. The tribe is incapable of holding a card room license in California and Business and Professions code section 19858 makes it illegal to do so.” Yet Rodney Martin was deeply involved in the purchase of a Class 2 card room license for his tribe. Did he not know this. Was he fired for incompetency?

Before that letter was ever mailed, both parties went back and forth, accusing each other of not negotiating in good faith.

Podergois faxed the California Gambling Control Commission on Feb. 25 the same year, notifying the state agency of his decision to withdraw from the sale of his card room license to the Tribe. He claimed that requests to extend the original time line of the sales agreement went unanswered.“My client has been requesting an answer/counteroffer from the Tribe for the last two months.  Mr. Rodney Martin, Tribal Administrator assured my client that the Tribal Council would consider his request on Jan. 24, 2008 and again on Jan. 31, 2008, my client has still not received any form of communication,”  a letter from Podergois’s attorney Greg Chambers dated Feb. 5, 2008, states. “My client is frustrated with the lack of communication and lack of progress in the transfer of the license and also on consideration of the amendment to the contract.”  This is behavior that Rodney Martin has frequently exhibited since then, within “White Nationalist” circles. I know many people can attest to it. 

[...]

Tribal Administrator Sam Cohen declined to comment for this story on behalf of the Tribe. Cohen worked for the tribe in another capacity prior to the card room deal and became Tribal Administrator late last year after former Tribal Administrator Rodney Martin left the Tribe’s employment. Martin continued to write editorials in the Porterville Recorder, and in 2010, and again in 2012,  he became a candidate for Porterville City Council, but with no success. Perhaps that was what led him to decide to try out the “Truth Movement”, start visiting with Mark Weber at the IHR [Institute for Historical Review], and believe that he could make as least as good a living as Weber did, without too much work.  

 

Category 

Race, White Nationalism