Anthony Martinelli, the 32-year-old Des Moines City Council member charged with domestic violence last year against his current partner and subsequently accused of physical and emotional abuse by two former partners, announced Friday night in Facebook posts that he would step down.
“After considerable thought I have decided to resign from my position as a member of the Des Moines City Council,” Martinelli wrote on the private Facebook pages of two groups about Des Moines. “Though I have maintained my innocence, and continue to do so, clearly my personal life has become a distraction to the city, and remaining on the council would be selfish.”
Des Moines Mayor Matt Mahoney wrote to Martinelli on Friday night to accept his resignation and said he would notify the city clerk and begin the reappointment process. The city clerk will start notifying the public about the position early in the coming week, Mahoney said Saturday, and over two council meetings legislators will interview candidates and vote on a replacement for Martinelli’s position. The Des Moines city attorney considered Martinelli’s Facebook posts a sufficient form of resignation, Mahoney said.
“Situations like this are difficult. It’s been a distraction from the good work we’re trying to do,” Mahoney said. “I applaud this decision because it’s good for the victims, the city and himself. We can start to move forward in a productive manner onto the next changes that face the city.”
Martinelli didn’t return a request for comment Friday night. In email Saturday, his lawyer, Gina Buskirk, reiterated that Martinelli decided to resign based on the allegations distracting the council and said the public nature of the case had “taken a toll.”
Martinelli, who has pleaded not guilty to six counts of misdemeanor domestic violence, reached a deal with the prosecution and judge Thursday morning to enter a pretrial diversion program that would allow for the possibility of his criminal charges to be dismissed after two years. Later that day, in a Facebook post to the same Des Moines politics group, Martinelli said he would not resign, adding that he had no comment on The Seattle Times’ reporting on the subsequent allegations from two former partners.
Multiple Democratic Party and labor groups nevertheless joined in calls this week for Martinelli, who has previously run with Democratic support, to step down. Some council colleagues had urged Martinelli to resign soon after his arrest, and the council voted last fall to censure him and strip him of his committee assignments.
“Even if charges against him are being dropped as a part of a plea deal, our elected officials are held to a higher standard of public trust, and this sort of thing is completely unacceptable,” Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, said Thursday in a statement responding to news of Martinelli’s deal with the prosecution.
In his Facebook comment Friday night, Martinelli called on his council colleagues to choose a replacement for his seat that “can help alter the fact that currently there is just one woman on the entire council, and there are zero minority members.”
As part of the deal, Martinelli must be supervised by the Des Moines prosecutor’s office for three years, participate in a form of domestic violence therapy and attend classes on family conflict, in addition to having no firearms, criminal law violations or contact with his partner.
The misdemeanor domestic violence charges in the case against Martinelli stem from a series of Facebook messages that Martinelli’s current partner allegedly sent over a period of eight months to her mother, who eventually called the police. Martinelli’s partner allegedly described him shoving her while she was holding their child, hitting her in the face and stomach, stopping her from calling 911 and threatening to slit her throat.
His partner, whom The Seattle Times is not naming because she is identified as a victim in a domestic violence case, denies that Martinelli abused her.
Following Martinelli’s arrest, two of his former partners, including Burien City Councilmember Cydney Moore, described additional allegations of abuse from Martinelli to police and to The Seattle Times in a story published Monday. Moore and Kayla Wolfe said they believed their allegations, taken together with the recent charges, indicated a pattern of escalating coercion and violence.
Martinelli and his lawyer, Buskirk, declined to be interviewed for Monday’s story about the allegations.
In her email Saturday, Buskirk said Martinelli and his partner have been subjected to intense scrutiny.
“His partner’s pleas for privacy have been repeatedly disregarded. Proceeding to trial in these matters would have only intensified the intrusion,” the lawyer wrote, adding, “Under the terms of this resolution, Mr. Martinelli is not admitting guilt but does agree to abide by specific conditions.”
In an emailed statement Saturday, Moore said: “I hope this situation has created a conversation not just about the incidents in this case, but about how we approach domestic violence and abuse overall. I believe we must continue to educate on what DV looks like and how damaging it can be, and we need to make it easier for victims to come forward and access the support they need.”
Both Moore and Wolfe said they were grateful to Des Moines residents, leaders and organizations that called for Martinelli’s resignation.
“I am beyond relieved at Mr. Martinelli’s announcement tonight to resign,” Wolfe said by email Saturday. “This decision is best for the city and for his family. I hope that he continues to focus on bettering himself for the sake of his family and his community.”
Staff reporter Daniel Beekman contributed to this report.