With Leesburg’s municipal elections looming Nov. 4, the candidates are working to stand out in the field.
Dwight Dopilka, making his third run in three years for a council seat, last week put the spotlight on incumbent Marty Martinez, raising questions about his attendance and engagement in council meetings.
In a letter sent to the media, Dopilka compiled attendance records since 2009 and claimed that Martinez has missed almost 27 percent of all council meetings in that time period, including 25.2 percent of regular meetings and 28.8 percent of work sessions. Dopilka counted late arrivals or early departures from meetings as absences, putting the attendance record in the least positive light possible. Town records show Martinez missed fewer meetings, although still the most of any member during that period. Mayoral hopeful Tom Dunn led the council in combined absences, late arrivals and early departures.
“The attendance record is unacceptable to the people of Leesburg, they deserve better,” said Dopilka, whose information had Martinez with 33 absences and 32 late arrivals or early departures during 242 total meetings. “If this situation was exhibited in the private sector, he would have been fired 12 years ago. So I think the people ought to know that and need to fire him come Nov. 4…It shows a lack of attention to being a public servant for Leesburg.”
When told of Dopilka’s criticism, Martinez said the concern was unwarranted.
“What he’s doing is making accusations of what he thinks is going on and it’s not what really is going on. As for the absences, I used to coach a Babe Ruth league baseball team. I let the mayor know about it, and she said it was OK and they would always get me the information. Any of my other absences were because of my day job or I was sick…If he’s going to criticize me for coaching baseball, then he’s un-American.”
Martinez said that he still coaches men’s league baseball teams in the fall and spring, but he tells the league to not schedule his games on Mondays or Tuesdays, when the council typically meets. And if there is a conflict in regard to a regular session, Martinez said, he will not miss the meeting.
According to attendance records compiled by the town from council meeting minutes since 2009, Martinez has been absent for 14 out of 133 regular sessions (10.5 percent) and 22 out of 117 work sessions (18.8 percent) where no formal actions are taken. That equates to being absent for 36 of the 250 (14.4 percent) total meetings in that time period. If Martinez’s 29 late arrivals or early departures are included, he has missed at least part of a meeting 26 percent of the time (65 out of 250). The minutes show that of Martinez’s 28 late arrivals and one early departure, he missed fewer than 10 minutes in 18 of those instances.
Martinez’s 14 absences for regular sessions tops absences of all other Council members since 2009, with mayoral candidate Tom Dunn behind him with seven. However, Dunn’s 82 combined absences, late arrivals or early departures (32.8 percent of all meetings) are the most among incumbents. That includes 37 late arrivals or early departures from regular sessions.
Kevin Wright has missed at least part of meetings 6 percent of the time (seven total absences), Kelly Burk has missed 8.8 percent since her 2012 election (five absences), Katie Sheldon Hammler is at 4.4 percent (seven absences), Dave Butler’s total is at 4.8 percent (seven absences) and Mayor Kristen Umstattd has missed 3.2 percent (five absences).
Dopilka also criticized Martinez for “largely gazing into his iPad” and seeming disinterested during meetings. “Typically he has no comment or he agrees with staff. I see very little initiative and intellectual rigor pertaining to the issues,” he said.
Martinez said he has been a big proponent of paperless meetings and reads his iPad as part of his council work.
“If you ever come back and look at my screen, I will have the current agenda items and slides up for reference in case I need anything. So here I am, a big proponent of paperless work and using my iPad to look at all the agenda items on Sharepoint, while a couple people have huge binders that waste a bunch of paper…I am very interested in everything that goes on in this town.”
Loudoun County supervisors also use iPads to view staff reports and other information during their meetings.