By Amanda Frye and Mark Gutglueck
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Gilbert G. Ochoa has shut the door on a claim by former Redlands City Manager Nabar Martinez that the City of Redlands and its taxpayer are contractually bound to provide him and his two children with lifetime medical and dental benefits.
On March 29, Ochoa entered a finding that thought an adjustment to his employment contract put in place while Martinez was city manager in Redlands called for the trio to be guaranteed health benefits at the city’s expense for the entirety of their lives, that provision was “illegal and cannot be enforced.”
Martinez was hired as city manager in Redlands in April 2007. He was experience and well-traveled as a city administrator. After graduating from Texas Tech University at the age of 32 in 1979, he doubled down on his educational commitment, obtaining a master’s degree in public administration from Texas Tech in 1981. That same year, he obtained a position as a budget analyst with the City of Dallas. In 1984 he was promoted to the position of manager of administration. In 1986, he left Dallas to become the assistant city manager of Lubbock, Texas. In 1989, he moved to the Bay Area to take up the post of assistant city manager with the City of San Jose. He remained there until 1993, when he was laid off due to budget cuts resulting from the then-slumping economy. The following year, he was hired by the City of Colton as city manager while Frank Gonzales was mayor. Later that year, Gonzales was voted out of office and replaced by George Fulp. Fulp and Martinez did not get along, and Fulp, who would be recalled from office in 1996, succeeded in having a majority of his colleagues terminate Martinez early that year, one of Fulp’s actions that contributed to the community discontent that led to his removal from office. Martinez immediately landed on his feet, obtaining the position of city manager with the City of Bell Gardens less than two weeks after he left Colton. He remeained in Bell Gardens until 1999. In January 2000, he sojourned to Florida, where he took on the position city manager in 43,000 population Palm Beach Gardens. That proved a relatively short-lived assignment as there was plenty of controversy in that community, which had starkly differing factions on the council. While he was city manager, six high ranking staff members or department heads departed, most of those being resignations in lieu of firings. That bloodletting proved contagious, and in October 2000, the city council in a 3-to-2 vote sacked Martinez. He returned to California and in January 2001 landed the position of assistant city manager in Pasadena. In January 2005, he was lured into taking the position of city manager with the City of Lynwood.
In October of 2005, Martinez hired Marianna Marysheva to serve in the capacity of Lynwood assistant city manager/finance manager. In relatively short order, the two married on February 15, 2006. Neither disclosed their marriage to the city council. In June 2006, one of the council members learned of the marriage and informed his colleagues about it. That ruffled things up a bit, but four-fifths of the council remained satisfied with the performance and output of both Martinez and Marysheva. In October 2006, fissures were beginning to show in the relationship between Martinez and the Lynwood City Council. In January 2007 three of the council members assented to having the city attorney look into whether Martinez had authorized payroll advances to himself, and he was placed on paid administrative leave. Martinez was yet technically on leave as Lynwood city manager when he was hired by Redlands in April 2007.
In Redlands, for the most part, he enjoyed the confidence and backing of the city council, which gave him wide latitude in running the city. That included giving him an essentially free hand in conferring upon himself regular salary and benefit enhancements that were rubberstamped by the city council. When he had started with the city in 2007, Martinez was provided with a $218,000 salary and roughly $54,000 in benefits annually. By 2017, Martinez’s salary had jumped to $282,859.06, which was augmented with other pay and add-ons of $68,037.02, which was then topped with $78,383.94 in benefits, for a total annual compensation package of $429,280.02.
In the meantime, Martinez’s marriage with Marysheva, with whom he had two children, Enrique Anatoly Maryshev-Martinez and Marianna Valentina Marysheva Martinez had gone south.
In 2012 Redlands had hit a rough patch as City Hall was fending off litigation brought by former municipal employees alleging they had encountered untoward workplace conditions and/or had been discriminated and retaliated against or harassed by higher-ups in the city and/or constructively, unjustifiably or wrongfully terminated. In 2013, Redlands Human Resources Director Deborah Scott-Leistra bailed. Martinez hired Amy Martin to replace Scott-Leistra. Martin won kudos both for deriving successful defenses of the city’s action in cases where litigation proceeded and her instituting of hiring procedures that were designed to ensure that the city’s newly acquired workers were a better fit for the circumstances and roles they assumed with the city, thus heading off costly terminations and lawsuits.
Early in her role overseeing the city’s personnel division, Martin-Hagan had accommodated Martinez with regard to his requests of her that went beyond the scope of her employment, in particular assisting him with the preparation and tailoring of his profiles to be submitted to on-line dating sites. According to Martin-Hagan, Martinez’s demands in this regard were continuous and took up a considerable amount of her time at home, often until late in the evening or during weekends as she spent literally hours with him on the phone or in person weekly, during which Martinez insisted upon discussing intimate personal and sexual matters. When the on-line postings to the dating sites failed to produce the results that Martinez, who was then in his middle-sixties, hoped would satisfy his predilection for petite women in their thirties and forties, he grew ever more demanding that Martin-Hagman further fine-tune his approach.
In early 2015, Martinez conferred with Martin on fine-tuning his employment contract with the city. On May 19, 2015, Martinez’s contract was altered to state that upon his achieving 15 years of service with the city he would be eligible for lifetime medical coverage. Referenced in that provision was coverage being extended to his “eligible dependents.”
On March 1, 2016, in the third amendment to his employment agreement with the city, the contract was changed to contain “Upon, and from and after, the city manager’ s separation of employment from [the] city, the city manager shall receive `lifetime medical and dental insurance’ coverage as the same exists on March 1, 2016. [The] City shall pay all premiums required for such `lifetime medical and dental insurance’ coverage only for the city manager and the city manager’s two eligible child dependents whose names are Enrique Anatoly Maryshev-Martinez and Marianna Valentina Marysheva Martinez.” Gone, apparently, was the requirement that Martinez remain with the city for 15 years before he would be eligible for lifetime medical benefits.
By 2017 Martin, whose last name had by that point changed to Martin Hagan, had grown deeply resentful of the extracurricular demands Martinez was putting on her. She subsequently refused to assist him any further in the preparation of his on-line dating profiles or indulge him in his sexually-laced conversations. There ensued from Martinez, according to Martin-Hagan, a series of eruptions of extremely offensive insults and vulgarisms, punctuated with threats that her then-ongoing efforts in representing the city in its collective bargaining sessions with the police officers’ and firefighters’ unions were inadequate and were on the brink of convincing the city council to insist upon her firing.
In October 2017, Martin-Hagan was signaling to city officials that she wanted to leave the city’s employ. On January 5, 2018, both Martinez and Martin-Hagan signed a separation settlement agreement that conferred upon her a ‘medical bridge’ program following her departure from the city that would provide her with health, vision, and dental insurance on a par to that which was provided to her as an employee until she reached the age of Medicare eligibility, i.e., 65.
A few months later, when city officials learned of that settlement agreement and that it would be required to pay for the then-42-year-old Martin-Hagan’s comprehensive medical coverage for the next 23 years, they balked at doing so, detailing city staff, meaning Martinez, to cut her off. Martin-Hagan dug in her heels and filed an administrative claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As the processing of Martin-Hagan’s claim proceeded with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there were a series of revelations relating to Martinez’s comportment, in particular pointedly sexually-oriented exchanges and harassment that involved Martinez pressing her to coordinate, after work hours and over weekends, his approaches to “date” women 25 years, 30 years and 35 years his junior. Martin-Hagan’s raising of those issues, coming as they did in 2018, at the height of the so-called “Me Too” juggernaut, which embodied deep outrage at the phenomenon of men’s sexual harassment of women, and in particular sexual harassment by men in positions of authority and power, felled Martinez. In September 2018 he was put on administrative leave. In November 2018, he was terminated.
That action came at some expense to the city. The city council did not cite any cause in taking that action, meaning that he would be due any severance pay due him under his contract. From shortly after the time he was hired as city manager, Martinez had been keeping a “black book,” on Redlands city officials, accounts of special favors that had been done for council members, corners that had been cut, utterances made by council members during their closed door and executive sessions outside the view or hearing of the public, details relating to police department and code enforcement activity that pertained to the council members, their domiciles, their family members and their property, the what where, how and when of accommodations, services and goods paid for by the city’s taxpayers not available to average citizens but which were provided to members of the city council, as well as variances between public pronouncements by the council’s members and action taken during closed door votes or statements uttered in private.
Martinez, in a less-than-subtle effort at blackmail, let it be known to certain city officials that a guarantee of his silence could be purchase for a $1,305,667.15 payout, which was to include 44 weeks of his annual pay of $282,859.05, subtotaling $239,342.28 along with 44 weeks of his $78,383.94 in annual benefits subtotaling $66,324.87, and $1 million. The city instead consented to pay him $845,325, consisting of $255,680 in salary and other pay from January 1 to November 6, $42,631 in benefits from January 1 to November 6, $225,313 for his accumulated and unused vacation and sick leave, and a severance payout equal to 15 months of his salary, consisting of $364,332. The $845,325 he received in 2018 made him the fifth highest paid public employee in California that year.
Martinez, however, believed he had gotten a raw deal. The city had made no allowance for the continuation of his and his children’s medical coverage into perpetuity, as was provided for in the March 1, 2016 third amendment to his employment agreement with the city.
Martinez pocketed the $845,325 and made a beeline to the law office of attorney Sanford Kassel, who filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the City of Redlands on behalf of Nabar Martinez, Enrique Anatoly Maryshev-Martinez and Marianna Valentina Marysheva Martinez.
Initially, the matter was considered by Judge Donna Gunnell Garza before it was transferred to Judge Ochoa.
The city, while acknowledging that the March 1, 2016 third amendment had been inserted into Martinez’s employment agreement with the city, maintained the clause was both illegal and unenforceable because if provided Martinez with “postretirement health benefits… more advantageous than provided generally to other public employees” in accordance with the California Government Code.
Martinez maintained that a deal is deal and the city was contractually obligated to provide him and his children with the lifelong benefits. Martinez maintained California contract law and precedent cases meant he and his children were entitled to what had been promised them.
“None of the cases cited by plaintiff involve a court ordering a party to comply with an illegal term of the contract but instead concern the enforcement of servable legal provisions,” Ochoa ruled.
By Amanda Frye and Mark Gutglueck