This story was updated at 7:44 p.m. on Thursday, March 18.
A lawsuit that claims County Commissioner Eddie Martinez did not live in the required district during his campaign and election heated up in recent weeks, when Martinez’s adult stepdaughter filed a sworn affidavit stating Martinez did not live in Key West during the campaign or 2020 election.
“A week or so after Eddie’s election, I asked my mom ‘what was next’ regarding Eddie being a county commissioner,” Martinez’s stepdaughter Natalie Guerra, 24, states in a sworn and notarized affidavit dated Feb 9, 2021. “She told me that they were looking for a place to live in Key West.
“On occasion Eddie said that if anyone questioned where he lived during the campaign, he planned to tell them that he lived at his Truman office, even though it was not true. He said that he would tell people that he had this business in Key West for a while before the election, so they won’t be able to prove otherwise. From pictures and my own experience, I believe the office was not livable. It was an enlarged storage closet with no proper shower or facilities. My sisters never slept there,” Guerra’s affidavit states.
“Eddie did not move to Key West during the campaign nor reside there on Election Day,” the affidavit continues. “…Eddie had no intention of living in Key West unless he won. We all thought he was going to lose. He didn’t know anybody in Key West and he was too sick to campaign. He was either in Key Largo or in a Miami hospital. Because of the prescribed medications from his surgeries, he was in no position to campaign or communicate with others.”
When the Keys Weekly reached Commissioner Martinez by phone on Thursday, March 18, Martinez said his stepdaughter, “has been bipolar since she was a child.”
“It really saddens me the lengths she has gone to, being so vicious about this. Natalie has always been jealous of her sisters because they’re half sisters, but I’ve taken care of Natalie since she was an infant,” Martinez said, adding that he has all the evidence to disprove the allegations in Guerra’s affidavit, but is still compiling it for his attorney.
When the Keys Weekly asked Martinez on Thursday where he is currently living, he replied, “Key West, of course, in my district.” When asked where in Key West, Martinez replied, “Old Town. But I’m currently in Miami for physical therapy after all my surgeries and two recent seizures during which I nearly bit my tongue in half.”
“But more than anything, that affidavit just saddens me,” Martinez said.
Upon reading Martinez’s comments about her, Guerra told the Keys Weekly, “The issue at hand is whether or not Eddie lived in [District 3] at the time of the election. I gave my honest statement. He did not. The fact that Eddie is trying to turn this into a family drama and continues to make ad hominem attacks against me shows the extent of his immaturity and inability to keep his professional life afloat, much less a county. [Editor’s note: ad hominem attacks are defined as arguments or reactions directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.)
A rocky relationship
The relationship between Guerra and Martinez has been contentious in recent months.
In January 2021, the Keys Weekly reported that Key West police were called to a domestic dispute on Simonton Street involving Martinez and Guerra. As a result of that incident, Guerra was taken to jail for allegedly striking her stepfather after Martinez reportedly tried to hit Guerra, but missed. The police reports state that Guerra’s younger sisters had called and asked her to come get them because their parents (Eddie and Maria Martinez) had been fighting for several days. Guerra told police she had traveled from Homestead to Key West to collect her young sisters and take them back to Homestead.
When Martinez refused to allow it, the police report states, the argument grew heated and ended with Guerra’s fiance grabbing Martinez “in a bear hug” and Guerra trying to separae the two by “smacking at them.” Martinez declined to press charges against his stepdaughter, but police took her to jail for misdemeanor battery.
Martinez told Keys Weekly on Jan. 15 that the incident was “nothing more than a rebellious stepchild, unfortunately. She did some bad things and got put in jail for it. That’s my only comment.”
Martinez, a Republican, narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat Heather Carruthers for the County Commission District 3 seat in November 2020. Soon after, on Nov. 23, Carruthers filed a lawsuit against Martinez, Monroe County, its commissioners and Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin.
In the case that’s pending before Judge Mark Jones, Carruthers’ attorneys claim Martinez did not live in the district he sought to represent (District 3) as required by Florida law. Carruthers’ attorneys filed a motion on Wednesday, March 17 asking Martinez and his attorneys to admit he did not live in District 3 before and at the time of his election. No legal response had been filed to that request as of Thursday, March 18, according to online court records.
Carruthers’ lawsuit asks the court to overturn Martinez’s election and declare Carruthers the winner. But the court’s authority to do so is unclear, and it could be up to the governor to potentially remove and replace Martinez based on a judge’s ruling.
Martinez and wife say they’re facing bankruptcy
The county commissioner is facing an additional lawsuit filed by a former landlord, Renata Coll.
Coll is suing Eddie and Maria Martinez for $8,000 that’s allegedly owed for rent, utilities, repairs and cleaning at a Key Haven property the Martinezes reportedly rented for two months, from February to April 2020, according to online court records.
The court minutes from a March 9 hearing state, “Defendants said they are filing for bankruptcy.” A mediation meeting in that case is scheduled for March 26, the court minutes state.
Due to the ongoing lawsuit against Monroe County and its representatives, County Mayor Michelle Coldiron, as well as other county employees and officials declined to comment on the matter.