Former Denver City Attorney Gets New Start

Scott Martinez leads Snell & Wilmer's new government relations group in Denver

In the former Denver City Attorney’s first day back in the private sector, a large developer contacted him for help with redeveloping an entire block of downtown, hoping to tap his familiarity with the inner workings of state and local government.

Martinez joined Snell & Wilmer as a partner in the Denver office. He is heading up the office’s new government relations, regulatory and administrative law practice group, where he is helping clients navigate the various regulations that affect their projects.

The developer that approached Martinez on day one, for example, will need to deal with rezoning for new buildings it wants to put up downtown as well as right-of-way issues that will crop up during construction. And its plan to take above-ground power lines underground will be no small project in itself. All of those issues touch different regulatory agencies and require different agreements, documents and arrangements to get done, Martinez said.

“I know how to look behind those closed doors and help those businesses package their submittals in a way that can get things done more quickly, more efficiently and expend fewer resources,” he said.

Since stepping down from his post as Denver City Attorney in May, the Colorado legal community speculated Martinez’s next move. He finally went with Snell & Wilmer, he said, because he would be developing its Denver office’s government relations practice from the ground up.

“I have a real opportunity to build something here,” he said, adding that he’s already in the early stages of forming a team under him that he said will be comprised of “the best of the best” legal talent. “I’m talking to people right now that are dynamic and bold who have government experience that would fit in with all of the most complex (government relations) problems.”

As Denver City Attorney, Martinez ran an office of more than 100 lawyers and more than 100 staff members. Having ascended to the position in December 2013, he stepped down from the post last May, leaving with a whistleblower retaliation claim lodged against his office and the Denver District Attorney’s Office investigating a Colorado Open Records Act claim against him.

Since then, both matters have resolved. The city agreed in August to pay assistant city attorney Stuart Shapiro $660,000 to settle the retaliation claims, and then-Denver DA Mitch Morrissey announced in October he would not file charges against Martinez for open records law violations, citing insufficient evidence to prove a willful violation, according to a CBS4 report.

Martinez said that the neither the whistleblower retaliation claim nor the CORA claim influenced his decision to step down.

“I am proud of the work I did as city attorney, and I know I left the administration in a really good place,” he said. “I made a lot of good friends and I’m eager to work with those colleagues again in the city attorney’s office.”

Martinez said that part of what makes Denver unique for practicing law, whether in the private or public sector, is that it has big-city problems that have small-town solutions. Because “everybody knows one another,” many issues can be resolved with just a couple phone calls, he said.

Martinez will surely be making more than a couple of those calls from his new line at Snell & Wilmer.