LAS CRUCES — Sunland Park Mayor Martin Resendiz admitted in court-related proceedings that he was drunk when he signed nine contracts with a California company suing the city for $1 million.
“The day I signed … I had way too much to drink. It was after 5 p.m. and I signed it (the contracts) and I didn’t know what I was signing,” Resendiz wrote in response to questions from lawyers for the architectural design firm Synthesis+. “My sister had to pick me up.”
The lawsuit claims the company is owed $1 million for work performed under the nine contracts. The city contends the contracts were not valid because they weren’t approved by the City Council.
Resendiz said during a deposition that he had been drinking with company executives at a local restaurant and that he didn’t read the documents, ask for copies or for time to study them.
“Like I said, I was, we were all, pretty intoxicated at that point,” Resendiz said.
A former El Paso police officer and Sunland Park municipal judge, Resendiz has been the border town’s mayor since March 2008. He has said he plans to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce to represent southern New Mexico.
The mayor’s admission was disclosed publicly by Sunland Park’s contract attorney, Santa Fe-based Frank Coppler, during a City Council meeting July 20.
The mayor and then-city manager, Andrew Moralez, had sought to fire Coppler weeks before, but Coppler kept his job after arguing that termination required a vote of the entire City Council.
Coppler had told Resendiz that neither the mayor nor city manager had sole authority to fire him and that hiring another attorney required a City Council vote.
Then, Coppler talked about how the mayor had signed contracts while drunk without City Council approval, an apparent reference to the Synthesis+ lawsuit filed in late 2009.
During the July 20 meeting, Resendiz did not deny Coppler’s claim, but, according to a report in the El Paso Times, he asked Coppler for a copy of the sworn testimony to which Coppler referred.
Coppler could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In response to a set of emailed questions, Resendiz, through a city public relations officer, said: “I cannot comment about Mr. Coppler’s statements or opinions because there is a pending litigation and we are not allowed to talk about it.”
‘Not something to brag about’
According to a transcript of Resendiz’s June 2010 deposition by attorney Victor Poulos, Resendiz admitted signing nine separate contracts for Synthesis+ work in May or June 2008 at Ardovino’s restaurant in Sunland Park after “a good two and a half, three hours” of drinking with Sythesis+ executives, including Daniel Soltero.
“Again, this was after two or three hours of us drinking, not exactly the best time to do business, not exactly the best time to read over legal documents, which he (Soltero) did not portray at any time to be legal documents,” Resendiz said according to a transcript of the deposition. Resendiz has maintained the contracts are not valid because they were not approved by the City Council, and he claims he told Synthesis+ executives there was no money for their work.
When Poulos asked the mayor if he had informed all City Council members about the circumstances of the contract signings, Resendiz said he had not: “Number one, it’s not something to brag about.”
City Councilor Daniel Salinas, who was also deposed, said under oath he was at the Ardovino’s meeting and was also inebriated.
Synthesis+ officials claim the mayor signed the documents in July 2008 at the Sunland Park city hall and that the mayor was sober.
Salinas said Wednesday he was not embarrassed by the episode because he did not realize the mayor was asked to sign contracts in what he believed to be largely a social meeting. “It never passed through my mind that those were contracts,” Salinas said.
City Councilor Carmen Rodriguez said Coppler’s public statements July 20 were the first she had heard about Resendiz’s admission.
“It’s disturbing,” she said, while also criticizing Salinas. “It’s irresponsible. If you were there, and you know he (Resendiz) wasn’t able to sign, why didn’t you stop him? They are both at fault, the way I see it.”
Poulos said it was the first time in his 33 years of practicing law that someone had admitted signing a contract while drunk.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal