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 where 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.

The contract papers themselves are at issue because the originals are part of file reported stolen from the tribal office.

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 the any statements made by 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."

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. As early as Monday, he said he will present all information on the sale and plans for the license with the exception of one document he said must be redacted due to the federal investigation.

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