tampabay.com

Official's actions set bad example

A Times Editorial
Published May 22, 2005


School Board member Cathi Martin needs to return to the classroom.

At the very least, she needs a course on memory improvement. She also should refresh herself with the public schools' character-development curriculum that stresses, among other things, responsibility, citizenship, respect, honesty and cooperation.

Martin showed poor judgment Tuesday evening by giving inaccurate information to a Pasco sheriff's deputy investigating a dispute between her husband, noted west Pasco dentist Ken Martin, and laborers who had cut tree limbs at their house.

The trio argued over payment for the tree trimmers' work. Ken Martin told a deputy no price was discussed beforehand and that he thought he would barter dental services in lieu of payment. The men refused to leave until they were compensated.

Cathi Martin concealed the fact that her husband had a gun. She told the deputy no one involved had a weapon. After conferring with her husband and learning he had volunteered information about the firearm, she revised her statement.

Her explanation? The same two words comedian Steve Martin (no relation) turned into a profitable punch line:

I forgot.

"It was chaos," Cathi Martin told St. Petersburg Times staff writer Steve Thompson, "It was total chaos and for me to forget something. I don't think that's totally off the wall."

Well, things tend to become chaotic when someone flashes a handgun and, according to the laborers, threatens to shoot one of them if they don't leave the property.

To Martin's credit, at least she attempted to quell the dispute by chastising her husband and taking the gun from him.

But she is shaky on those details as well. According to a deputy's report, Martin's revised statement was that her husband had a gun in his pocket during the confrontation.

"She said her husband put his hand in the pocket where the gun was and he could not get the gun out of his pocket while telling the victim to leave. She said she then took the gun from the ... pocket and went and put it in the bedroom," the report states.

So, her husband couldn't get the gun out of his pocket, but she could? Her version certainly stretches the imagination, particularly since Dr. Martin and the laborers all agreed the dentist pulled a handgun and told them to leave his house.

The deputy confiscated a .45-caliber handgun and arrested Dr. Martin on a charge of aggravated assault. The tree trimmers received trespass warnings. Cathi Martin said the incident is a personal matter that should not be confused with her career on the School Board. She is mistaken.

A student giving false information to a deputy investigating a gun crime at a public school likely would face grave consequences from the school district. Martin escaped with a public notation of her evolving story.

Martin would be wise to reflect on her poor judgment and consider if she would want Pasco's school children to follow her example.