DISTRICT HEIGHTS — Eddie Martin has resigned as the mayor of District Heights on Dec. 9 amid a suspension following an unlawful purchase of $50,000 worth of fireworks.
The 71-year-old was sentenced in the Prince George’s County Circuit Court after being found guilty of misconduct in office in November. Martin was ordered to serve a two-year jail sentence; with all-time suspended with the exception of two days – meaning that he spent the past weekend in jail, announced Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III, on Dec. 10.
Martin used a government letterhead to authorize the purchase of fireworks from Wayne’s World Fireworks in Bowling Green, Ind., on behalf of an acquaintance. Circuit Court Judge Tiffany Anderson sentenced Martin for the misdemeanor charge, placed him on supervised probation for five years and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $22,252.50, according to officials from the Office of the State Prosecutor (OSP).
“Mr. Martin’s resignation and sentencing brought closure to a very troubling time for the residents and elected officials for the City of District Heights. The Commission fully understands how Martin’s conduct has adversely impacted how citizens perceive city government and how city government functions,” says a City of District Heights statement announcing the former mayor’s resignation.
“Simply put, Mr. Martin’s conduct has severed the trust in city government.”
In accordance with Section 306 of the city’s charter, former Vice Mayor Jonathan Medlock is serving in Martin’s stead as the District Heights interim mayor. According to Medlock, city commissioners will take a vote early next year on whether he will fill the vacancy for the remainder of Martin’s term, which doesn’t expire until May 2022.
The OSP said that Martin “was aware that he was authorizing the purchase for an acquaintance for his own benefit” rather than using the fireworks for city use.
Furthermore, Martin reportedly said he had no immediate plans to resign and was swindled “by a sweet-talking crook” who told him that he could use some of the fireworks in the annual District Heights Fourth of July celebration.
“Mr. Martin abused the trust of the residents of District Heights and the privileges of his office. He has now been held accountable. We will continue to do our best to ensure public officials discharge their duties responsibly,” Howard said. “I would like to commend Deputy State Prosecutor Kelly Madigan and Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lindsay Bird for their hard work on this important case.”
Before becoming the vice mayor of District Heights in 2018, Medlock served as a city commissioner. He said he was in disbelief when he learned of Martin’s misdemeanor offense. He and Martin worked together only within the confines of city-related functions and tasks. The two had no close ties outside of work, Medlock said, continuing that some cherished the former mayor in the community, and the decision he made was uncharacteristic of who he is as a person.
“The mayor, he has a strong personality. He’s been doing this for I think 16 to 18 years,” Medlock said of Martin.
“He’s loved by a lot of citizens and residents. He’s done a lot for the city. I think this particular incident was just, I believe, uncharacteristic of him, but it was done. So, no matter how many accolades you have, that one major mistake – it can cost you everything, and I think that’s what we saw.”
As Medlock steps into the new leadership role, he has high expectations with intentions of moving the city forward.
“I want to continue to lead our city forward. I’m not new to the political world or being in a leadership position,” said Medlock, who also serves with the 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County Inc. The Georgia native said he plans to focus on annexation, generating revenue, youth development, and industry development, in District Heights.
“My leadership style is led by example, lead from the front,” he said. “Whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to be on me to change and move us forward, and get this behind us.”
The Office of the State Prosecutor jointly investigated this matter, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Attorneys’ Office for the District of Maryland, according to OSP.
“However, with this chapter now closed, it is time for the elected officials and citizens to come together to accomplish the many positive projects and activities that are occurring in the city,” says a statement released by the City of District Heights.
“For the Commission’s part, it pledges to work to regain the trust of the residents of the City of District Heights and to move the city in a positive direction.”