It’s been a busy few weeks for sex-related allegations at San Diego city hall, thanks to the now self-admitted but unspecified indiscretions of Democratic mayor Bob Filner. If the mayor’s accusers ever emerge to confront him in court, or if reported FBI forays into Filner’s inner sanctum eventually bear fruit, the story may become even more colorful. But in the way of dining and lewd anecdotes, not much can compare with the saga of Uvaldo Martinez, a Republican city councilman back in the 1980s who seemed destined for greater things until he got caught up in what become known in some irreverent political circles as “Tongue-gate.”
Martinez’s political fate revolved around his habit of stopping in for dinner and drinks with male staffers at posh bistros and bars around the city, including downtown’s Dobson Restaurant, a longtime city hall watering hole for such luminaries as fallen GOP mayor Roger Hedgecock and imprisoned Democratic city councilman Ralph Inzunza. One night after work, Martinez and company ran into his campaign treasurer Bob Miller and city hall secretary Charlotte Sharpe, along with Westgate Hotel concierge Salima Din and her sister, Nardis. After beckoning the party upstairs, a visibly inebriated Martinez ordered bottles of champagne and food.
Later asked by a prosecutor whether the councilman knew he was “doing or saying anything you construed as lewd or suggestive?” Sharpe broke down in tears. “He sometimes does things with his tongue, just gestures.” On cross examination, according to an account in the San Diego Tribune, Martinez’s lawyer got Sharpe to say that the councilman’s behavior was due to his being under the influence and would be considered “out of character” for him in the office.
But rumors of sexual harassment were the least of the GOP councilman’s worries. In October 1986, he pled guilty to two felony counts of hitting city taxpayers with tabs for personal dinners and drinks at watering holes and resigned. Prosecutors alleged that Martinez had run up $1840 in charges on 20 occasions from November 1984 to June 1985 on his city-issued credit card. Martinez had submitted vouchers claiming he was dining with officials and developers on city business, but witnesses testified he was with girlfriends and staffers, the Tribune said.