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Felony charge could jeopardize Pueblo Councilman-elect’s position

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A soon-to-be Pueblo City Council Member charged with a felony for criminal mischief is set to be sworn into office in January, but a conviction could stymie his plan for public service.

According to the Pueblo City Charter, an elected official convicted of a felony is required to forfeit their position. "A person who has been convicted of a felony shall not become a candidate for the Council or Mayor," says Section 2-4 of the city charter.

On Election Day, voters in the south side and Bessemer neighborhood chose Vicente Martinez Ortega to represent District 4 on Pueblo City Council.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Vicente Martinez faces a felony-level criminal mischief charge. The newly elected council member is accused of damaging at least $1,000 and at most $5,000 in city property.

Vicente Martinez Ortega

"Vicente destroyed several plaques at the [Christopher] Columbus monument on Abriendo Avenue," said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner. "One of the plaques was mine, so technically I'm a victim in the case."

The Public Works Department in Pueblo says repairs at the Christopher Columbus Plaza are still in progress.

According to Chostner, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office have appointed a Special Prosecutor for the case due a to a conflict of interest.

In Pueblo's Charter, it says, "Any officer after final conviction of a felony shall forfeit his office forthwith."

Martinez-Ortega tells 13 Investigates he is confident he'll be sworn or remain a council member when the case concludes. He says the charge is politically motivated.

“I do want to let the people of Bessemer know that Political Prosecutions still do happen,” said Martinez Ortega. “What this shows us is that it is super unfair to folks who get elected, win a position and now they are under such a microscope because of their political activism."

Council Member-elect Martinez Ortega declined to say if he was innocent of the charge or discuss the specifics surrounding the charge.

He is the son of the late Pueblo Activist Rita Martinez, and like his mother, he has been vocal opponent to the existence of the Christopher Columbus Plaza on Abriendo Avenue across the street from the Rawlings Library.

According to the Pueblo City Clerk's Office, Martinez Ortega officially announced his candidacy on August 10th. Court records show that Martinez Ortega was charged on June 29th.

Martinez Ortega tells 13 Investigates he is not worried about a potential conviction.

"I will be sworn in on January 10th as a City Councilman," said Martinez Ortega.

Three days prior to his swearing in, Martinez Ortega will be in court for a plea hearing.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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