Advocates call for confirmation of Maryland Stadium Authority nominee
The drumbeat for Gov. Wes Moore’s stalled nominee to the Maryland Stadium Authority grew louder Tuesday, when a group of more than 80 current and former elected officials and community leaders signed a letter to state senators urging her confirmation “without delay.”
The letter to senators on the Executive Nominations Committee expressed the group’s unqualified support for Yolanda Maria Martinez, an Ellicott City businesswoman, citing the need for Latino representation in local and state government generally, and on the Stadium Authority board specifically.
The letter, however, makes no mention of Martinez’s troubled 35-year financial history, her recent $7.2 million bankruptcy, dozens of lawsuits and judgments for millions of dollars filed against her, or the fact that she has had her wages garnished, automobiles repossessed and properties she owned foreclosed upon.
That information, reported March 13 by Maryland Matters, gave the Senate Executive Nominations Committee pause, and members put a hold on the nomination.
Signatories of the letter sent to senators include former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), former Baltimore Mayor Sheila A. Dixon (D), mayors and city council members from around Maryland, state delegates, business and union officials and leaders in the state’s Latino community.
“We believe that until the most important commissions include Latinos among their membership, Maryland is failing in its responsibility to adequately include 11.1% of the state’s population and a community overrepresented in business new starts,” the letter reads. “Maria is a woman who has earned her place in our hearts and the person we are asking you to confirm to the Maryland Stadium [Authority board] without delay.”
The Legislative Latino Caucus, which also sent a letter to senators, and CASA Inc., the advocacy organization that provides social services to immigrants, have scheduled a press conference outside the State House on Wednesday morning to call on the Senate to confirm her appointment.
Martinez is prominent in the state’s Latino community, active in civic causes, a past O’Malley appointee to state boards and commissions, and a generous contributor to Democratic candidates.
She has said 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. After overcoming being a victim of domestic abuse, she said she was able to found a successful medical equipment company.
Both Martinez and the governor’s staff have said that she told Moore of her history before he nominated her Feb. 17 to the board.
However, some senators were surprised by the news report about her financial past. Members complained privately they were not advised by the governor’s staff as to Martinez’s troubles before considering whether to confirm her for the board of one of the most prestigious and significant agencies in the state.
Senators have expressed concern about confirming anyone with that financial background to a spot on the nine-member board of the powerful Stadium Authority, which oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in state construction undertakings each year and has authority to issue bonds for capital projects.
Questioned by reporters about the appointment on Tuesday, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said he was sympathetic to what Martinez has experienced.
“It is clear that she has faced an enormous amount of trauma throughout her life, and it’s heart-wrenching to learn of the challenges that she’s faced and overcome,” Ferguson said. “She has a remarkable story of resiliency in her own right and has been successful in many ways and has been challenged in many ways … that occur disproportionately for women of color.”
But, he said, “I think that at the end of the day, the Stadium Authority is a fiduciary of state resources,” Ferguson said. “And so I think … we have to make sure that there’s a full level of confidence in the financial acumen of the appointees. And so, you know, we’re reviewing the case.”
Asked if he could predict whether the Senate would confirm her nomination, the Senate president said, “Too early to say, but I think … there are a number of members who still have concerns.”
He was then asked if there was enough time to resolve those concerns, given the April 10 adjournment of the legislature, he replied, “Unclear.”
Bryan P. Sears contributed to this report.
Editor’s Note: A link to the Legislative Latino Caucus bill was corrected.