By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – Scott Martinez, Denver’s city attorney who had been under fire on several fronts, is stepping down with little explanation, according to an announcement from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
“Scott has been a dedicated public servant for our city throughout his time in my administration,” read the mayor’s release. “He has made this city stronger and better through his thoughtful leadership.”
The release didn’t cite any reasons for Martinez’s departure, and didn’t indicate if he had another job waiting, but noted his last day would be May 31.
CBS4 left a voicemail for Martinez and sent an email, neither of which was immediately returned. In the city news release, Martinez was quoted as saying, “I thank Mayor Hancock for this opportunity. The past 4 ½ years of service have been truly meaningful for me.”
Martinez departs from his position as the Denver district attorney is actively reviewing his and his office’s actions and conduct in responding to a CBS4 Colorado Open Records Act Request. In that case, Martinez’s top administrator, Nikki Holmlund, denied in writing the existence of a specific open record. However, CBS4 later obtained the precise document which the City Attorney’s Office had claimed did not exist.
Martinez said he believed “we were truthful throughout. We responded in a way that was consistent with the law and was truthful.” One expert on open records law said it appeared the City Attorney’s Office had blatantly lied about the existence of specific records. And in mid-March, the Denver District Attorney’s Office announced it would review what occurred and see if anyone had violated the Colorado Open Records Act.
After more than six weeks, Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the district attorney, told CBS4 that review is still ongoing.
“The district attorney is still trying to determine the appropriate course of action as it relates to the CORA issue,” said Kimbrough Tuesday afternoon.
CBS4 has also learned that Nicole Holmlund, a key figure in the open records investigation, departed from the City Attorney’s Office last week. In an announcement to staff members April 29, the City Attorney’s Office announced Holmlund was taking a job with the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center.
The Hancock news release lauded Martinez’s role in creating a taxpayer protection unit, implementing retail sales of marijuana, and addressing issues surrounding public safety. However, Martinez’s handling of the case of Senior Assistant City Attorney Stuart Shapiro caused considerable controversy. Martinez placed Shapiro on paid leave for nearly two years during which Shapiro received two raises even though he did no work for the city and never reported to his office. Martinez put Shapiro back to work earlier this year only after a series of CBS4 investigations exposed what had occurred. Shapiro has now filed a whistleblower claim against the City Attorney’s Office.
Mayor Hancock plans to launch a search for the next city attorney as quickly as possible, according to his news release.