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Moore ups pressure on senators to confirm Martinez for Stadium Authority

Maria Martinez addressed the Maryland Senate Executive Nominations Committee about her nomination to the Maryland Stadium Authority board on March 13. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) is resolutely pushing for his nominee to the Maryland Stadium Authority board to be approved by a Senate committee, which held her name last Monday after details of her past financial problems became public, surprising many legislators.

Behind the scenes, Moore is doubling down on the nomination of Yolanda Maria Martinez, an Ellicott City businesswoman, urging House members to lobby senators on the Executive Nominations Committee to bring her name up for a vote, while having his staff contact senators to do the same.

The committee last week held the Martinez nomination after hearing testimony from her. That followed a Maryland Matters report that morning about her troubled 35-year financial history, including a recent $7.2 million bankruptcy and dozens of lawsuits and judgments for unpaid debts filed against her.

Both Martinez, who is known as Maria, and the governor’s staff have said that she told Moore of her past history before he nominated her Feb. 17 to the board of the Stadium Authority, which oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in capital projects each year.

But the news report surprised senators, some of whom complained privately they were not advised by the governor’s staff as to the nominee’s financial past before considering whether to confirm her for the board of one of the most powerful and prestigious agencies in the state.

It remains unclear whether her nomination will be voted on by the committee before the legislature adjourns April 10, and some in the governor’s office have started to raise concerns that her name will not be brought up by Executive Nominations again.

That said, however, the Moore administration still appears solidly behind her and is not prepared to withdraw the nomination.

“Nothing has changed,” said one staffer.

Last Wednesday, during a breakfast with the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus at Government House, Moore urged lawmakers to lobby senators on the Executive Nominations Committee, legislators said.

Since then, Martinez herself has contacted senators on the committee to answer any questions they might have and was seen Friday in the State House, lawmakers and officials said. The governor, too, has contacted some senators.

On Monday, the Legislative Latino Caucus and CASA Inc., the long-established advocacy organization that provides social services to immigrants, announced a news conference for Wednesday morning outside the State House to “call on [the] Senate to appoint Maria Martinez to the Stadium Authority.”

Expected to attend are: Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-Montgomery), the Latino caucus chair, Del. Joseline Peña-Melynk (D-Prince George’s), caucus vice-chair; Del. Gabriel Acevero (D-Montgomery), caucus secretary; and caucus members Del. Ashanti Martinez (D-Prince George’s), Del. Deni L. Taveras (D-Prince George’s), and Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery).

Other prominent Latino leaders, including Gustavo Torres, CASA’s executive director, are also expected to attend.

Maria Martinez is prominent in the state’s Latino community, active in civic causes, a past political appointee to state boards and commissions, and a generous contributor to Democratic candidates.

In addition to Martinez, Moore has nominated two other new members to the Stadium Authority board, including the chair, Craig A. Thompson, his political campaign chairman and close friend, who was confirmed March 6 by the full Senate.

Lee Coplan, an architect, is one of Gov. Wes Moore’s picks to serve on the board of the Maryland Stadium Authority. Photo by William F. Zorzi.

On Monday evening, the Executive Nominations Committee approved Moore’s third board nomination, architect Lee Coplan, who last month announced his retirement from Hord Coplan Macht, the Baltimore architecture firm he founded and headed as chief executive officer.

After he spoke briefly, Sen. Pamela G. Beidle (D-Anne Arundel), Executive Nominations Committee chair, asked Coplan if he foresaw any conflicts of interest serving on the Stadium Authority board.

In response, he mentioned ongoing negotiations between the Maryland Jockey Club/Stronach Group, owner of Pimlico Race Course, and LifeBridge Health, which owns Sinai Hospital, for a land swap, as well as agreements for covenants and restrictions that are being overseen by the Stadium Authority.

“The only conflict that may exist is in my position as a board member of LifeBridge … because we share a property line with Pimlico race track,” he said. “I think we both have the same goals there, which is to keep the race [the Preakness Stakes] in Baltimore and to stabilize that part of the community. That would be the only thing I could think of.”

Seeming to reference the Martinez hearing last week, Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Lower Shore) then asked if there were “any past financial challenges that this committee should be made aware of.”

“Uh, no. There are not,” Coplan replied.

The committee approved his nomination, along with the names of 66 others, and sent them to the full Senate for consideration and confirmation.


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Moore ups pressure on senators to confirm Martinez for Stadium Authority