City Commissioner Johnathan Medlock, who is the vice mayor, said at a commission meeting this week that state law precludes commissioners from taking action before Martin’s sentencing on Dec. 10. The commission has a meeting scheduled that evening.
Martin, 71, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, where residents who spoke said they were frustrated and disgusted by the mayor’s conduct. He said in an interview that he has no immediate plans to resign and was swindled “by a sweet-talking crook” when he used government letterhead to authorize the purchase and transport of the fireworks from Wayne’s World Fireworks in Bowling Green, Ind.
Martin called the misdemeanor offense “a boneheaded mistake.” He emphasized that he neither spent city money on the fireworks, which by law can be purchased only by municipalities or individuals who possess federal explosives licenses, nor took money in exchange for authorizing the purchase.
“I want to say to the residents that I apologize for even being involved in this. I made a mistake,” he said. “I have always given the city my best.”
Martin said he met Edward Walker — the Prince George’s County man whom he helped purchase the fireworks — at a fundraiser a few years ago catered by Walker’s company, Eddie’s Chicken and Waffles. Martin did not know then, he said, that Walker had a record of fraud, including using bogus checks to pay for $17,248 of Christmas trees in 2010.
In 2017, he said, Walker told him that he had a fireworks business and wanted to purchase merchandise from Wayne’s World, an importer and distributor of wholesale Class B and Class C fireworks. Martin said he agreed to write a letter on his official stationery to authorize the purchase because Walker told him that he could use some of the fireworks in the annual District Heights Fourth of July celebration.
“I wanted to enhance our fireworks show,” Martin said.
But District Heights, a city of 6,000, never received any fireworks, Martin said. Assistant State Prosecutor Lindsay Bird said authorities began investigating after Wayne’s World and debt collectors contacted the District Heights government saying the fireworks had not been paid for.
“This was an illegal sham,” said State Prosector Charlton T. Howard III. “The fireworks had no nexus or connection to the city.”
Wayne’s World did not respond to requests for comment. Walker could not be reached. His Chicken and Waffles business, in Clinton, Md., is closed, according to Yelp. A voice mail left on a phone number found in public records did not yield a response.
Martin was elected mayor in 2018, after 14 years as a city commissioner. His biography on the city website says he worked for years in youth sports and education, including stints as an assistant football coach at the District’s Woodrow Wilson High School and the University of the District of Columbia. At one point, Martin said, he was acting dean of students at Alice Deal Middle School in Northwest Washington.
Martin’s biography also says he “is a former Washington Redskin.” But Redskins spokesman Sean DeBarbieri said there is no record of Martin on the team’s all-time roster or statistics database. Martin said he was signed as a running back in 1974 and then played for the New York Jets; a spokesman for that team could not immediately be reached.
Martin faced separate misconduct in office charges related to theft in 2013, when he was accused of mismanaging funds during out-of-state travel. But that case was closed without a conviction. Martin said he was saving taxpayers money by charging the city for mileage on his car one way and using the city’s credit card to pay for gas on the way back.
Pamela Janifer, a former District Heights commissioner, said she was in the courtroom with other city residents when the mayor was convicted Nov. 19. “We were trying to be polite, but there was this silent celebration,” she said.
Janifer, who attended the commission meeting Tuesday, described Martin in an interview as “mean-spirited and a bully” and said she has seen him “talk down to residents.”
“A bully? I am not a bully,” Martin said when told of her assessment. “What I am trying to do is save this town.” He said he wants to finish a senior center that he has pushed for and does not plan to seek reelection in 2022.
City Attorney Kevin Karpinski said the qualifications to be mayor or a commissioner — part-time jobs that are paid $14,400 and $10,800, respectively — include not being convicted of any felony or misdemeanor “involving moral turpitude.”
Medlock said District Heights should not be judged by the mayor’s actions alone.
According to the charter, a recall election can be scheduled if 30 percent of eligible voters sign a petition. A majority vote in the resulting special election would lead to the mayor’s removal, and the vice mayor would step in.
Lynh Bui contributed to this report.