The Senate Executive Nominations Committee held the name of Gov. Wes Moore’s nominee to the powerful and prestigious Maryland Stadium Authority board Monday evening, after hearing testimony from the woman being considered for confirmation.
With limited discussion, the panel opted to hold off its vote on Yolanda Maria Martinez, a 60-year-old businesswoman from Ellicott City with a troubled 35-year financial history that includes a recent $7.2 million personal bankruptcy and dozens of lawsuits for unpaid debts.
The decision not to take action on Martinez’s nomination came after an article Monday morning in Maryland Matters detailed how she had millions of dollars in judgments filed against her and other financial difficulties. Both Martinez, who is known as Maria, and the governor’s staff said that she had told Moore of her past history before the he nominated her Feb. 17 to the Stadium Authority board.
The committee held her nomination hours after Moore told reporters he continued to back her.
Sen. Antonio L. Hayes (D-Baltimore City), the panel vice chair, made the motion to hold Martinez’s nomination. It is Senate tradition that any member of the Executive Nominations Committee may delay a final vote on a gubernatorial appointment.
“There are questions that members of the committee still have … and they probably need more time to digest it; so, it was asked that we hold onto it,” Hayes said. “In this case, I agree with that, given what we read today, we should hold off on it.
“We may bring it back up; we may not,” Hayes said. “It just depends on how the session is moving, and it’s moving really quickly.”
Being named to the prestigious Maryland Stadium Authority’s nine-member board is considered a plum appointment, because of the agency’s high-profile work. The authority has wide-ranging responsibilities, including the award of contracts, structuring of financing deals and negotiating of multiyear, multimillion-dollar leases with professional sports teams and others.
Martinez told the committee that her financial problems started years ago, when she was caught up in the 1994 bankruptcy of a company owned by her abusive former husband — circumstances that she said affected her for years.
She then explained how she overcame being a victim of domestic abuse and rose up to found another business, Respira Inc., a medical equipment company, which enjoyed success until a change in government reimbursement rates forced her to close the doors in 2018.
“I just needed to clarify all that because it’s very painful for me,” Martinez told the committee.
Prominent in the state’s Hispanic community, she has been active in civic causes over the years.
Martinez told the committee how she had been a past appointee to state boards and commissions, including as chair of Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the board of trustees of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, the state’s insurer of last resort, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Board of Review.
She mentioned her work with the United Way of Central Maryland on helping to launch the Maryland 211 support hotline, and of helping former Secretary of State Mary D. Kane (R) with legislation establishing the state’s “Safe at Home” program for victims of domestic violence.
“I have been before this body several times in my career and it’s always been nothing but support, and it just is very difficult to be defined through a lens that has just information that has been obtained in public records” without the benefit of comments from her supporters.
Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore) told Martinez that members of the Senate must answer to their constituents, who have questions about the nomination to the Stadium Authority board because the agency has such enormous power and financial oversight.
“When our constituents raise concerns about a challenged fiscal history and background that’s being applied to an appointment to one of the most important and prestigious [boards] in the state, those are legitimate questions,” Carozza said. “And they ask the question, are there others who didn’t face these challenges that might have been better nominees? They ask those questions. You should know that.
“So when questions are being asked, it’s not to personally challenge you, it’s to put it in the context of this specific appointment and the fact that it’s not your normal board or commission. It is at a different level,” the senator said.
“I am sorry for what you’ve gone through personally [and] I am sorry for what you’ve gone through financially, and I know my colleagues share that,” she said.
Carozza was the only member of the committee to speak before Martinez finished and left the room with her husband, Ricardo Martinez. Then, Hayes called for the vote on other names the committee was considering.
Through Tisha S. Edwards, Moore’s appointments secretary, Martinez declined to speak to a reporter after the hearing.
Earlier in the day, at a Baltimore event about electric vehicles, Moore said he was supportive of Martinez being on the Stadium Authority board.
“I’m excited for the fact that she’s now going to have a chance to have a fair hearing,” he said of her appearance before the Senate committee.
“I know when it comes to Maria, we know that for many of us, our paths have not been even. And I know that giving her an opportunity to be able to meet with the Senate, giving her an opportunity to be able to make her case and to see why I was so excited, and am so excited, to see her as part of the Maryland Stadium Authority,” Moore said.
“I think people will see that she brings unique perspective, that she brings a unique view, and that the journey she has had, the life journey that she has had, not only does it mirror many Marylanders’, but it brings a unique additive to what we need to see on the Maryland Stadium Authority,” he said.
Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.