Governor reaffirms Ed Martin as chief of staff

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | 9:56 p.m. CDT; updated 5:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt reaffirmed his support for Chief of Staff Ed Martin at a press conference Wednesday after some Hispanic groups accused Martin of making offensive comments.

The comments in question occurred at the Aug. 17 Missouri Housing Development Commission meeting as Martin addressed claims that developer Pete Hennessey had hired illegal immigrants for a state-funded housing project.

At the meeting, Hennessey’s attorney said there was no way to electronically verify the legal status of his workers at the time.

In response, according to a transcript of the meeting, Martin said, “I’ll tell you what’s available is every ... developer can figure out who is legal, and when he says there’s a bunch of Mexicans out there, I guess some of them are probably not legal.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, Blunt did not specifically address the comments and focused on Martin’s job performance.

“He is doing a wonderful job leading the staff and working with the members of the Cabinet,” Blunt said. “I expect results and he’s delivering results in a number of areas.”

Rita Valentino, president of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations, said the governor should apologize for Martin’s comments and that Martin should be fired.

Rep. Timothy Flook, R-Liberty, said Martin’s comments don’t seem racist to him. Flook is a second-generation Mexican-American.

“I classify them as indelicate, but I did not read them as a straight-out racist comment,” Flook said.

Flook said he also doesn’t think the comments warranted a call for resignation or apologies.

Jim Torres, legislative liaison and commission secretary, resigned effective Sept. 20 after Martin’s comments. Torres wrote a letter to Gov. Blunt that stated he was offended by Martin’s remarks.

Torres is currently on leave and unavailable for comment.

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