House Accepts Misla's Resignation
Senate To Investigate Maribel Rodriguez
Calderon To Use Non-Recurring Income To Offset $560M Budget Shortfall
Complaints Filed Against Blue Ribbon Members
PIP Leaders Targeted For Imprisonment Deny Federal Jurisdiction
11 Officers Arrested
House Accepts Misla Aldarondo's Resignation
By Proviana Colon Diaz
January 14, 2002
A 25 year-long career in the public service came to end on Monday when the House of Representatives accepted the resignation of former House Speaker Edison Misla Aldarondo.
Misla Aldarondo said he decided not to attend Monday's session because it would be emotionally too difficult for him.
"I'm filled with mixed feelings," Misla Aldarondo said while adding that Monday's session was an extraordinary one.
At exactly 3:35 p.m. House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo read Misla Aldarondo's resignation letter and informed the House secretary that the post was now vacant.
NPP minority leader Anibal Vega Borges then informed the floor that the his party President Carlos Pesquera was already working in accordance with the law to fill in the post.
Moments later, Misla Aldarondo held a press conference in his office.
Hours prior to leaving his seat, Misla Aldarondo again defended his record and reiterated that he does not regret anything.
Senate Ethics Committee To Investigate Maribel Rodriguez
By Proviana Colon Diaz
January 14, 2002
The Senate Ethics Committee executive panel unanimously agreed on Monday that there is enough cause to investigate Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Maribel Rodriguez for allegedly mishandling public funds to pay for her stay during the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York and for allegedly requesting to deposit fundraising money in her personal bank account.
Rodriguez immediately reacted by accepting the committee's decision while denying that she will resign.
"Today, at this moment, at this instant my experience leads me to make the decision that at this time I will not present my resignation," Rodriguez said.
Following the Ethics Committee decision, the executive panel said its intention is to handle the investigations in a fast and fair manner.
The investigation will continue on a confidential level with private hearings with the senator's attorneys on Jan. 19 and a chance for her to present her case on Jan. 25.
Committee Chairman Sen. Eudaldo Baez Galib said the two complaints were consolidated because it was "not logic" to hold two separate procedures.
One of the complaints was filed by Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora for the senator's failure to explain how she spent the money granted by the Senate for the trip. The other complaint was filed against Rodriguez by the New Progressive Party Senate Delegation for evidence that revealed the senator had requested checks for tickets to an event held on Jan. 8, to be made out to her name and to be deposited in her personal account.
Calderon To Use Non-Recurring Income To Balance Budget
January 13, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - Gov. Sila Calderon said Friday she will use non-recurring income to balance the fiscal 2003 budget, though she criticized that action when the past New Progressive Party administration did it.
"I will guarantee you that we will have a balanced budget June 30. The bills to balance the budget are already drawn up and those who will evaluate it have been informed," Calderon said, without revealing these measures.
However, she answered in the affirmative when asked if non-recurring income would be used, which is a form of artificially balancing the budget because it counts on income that is not received continuously, according to published reports.
When the governor was asked if she would use the $70 million of the contingency reserve that was created after the Telefonica, the $90 million of the State Security Fund, and another $30 to $40 million from the sale of tax debts in the Government Development Bank, she said she did not remember which contingency bills she approved.
The governor has repeatedly said that the island's fiscal situation is affected, like other U.S. jurisdictions, by the U.S. economic recession and by million-dollar transactions made by the past administration that undermined the income that would sustain that budget.
Puerto Rico's Budget Shortfall Nears $560 Million
By Ken Oliver-Mendez
January 12, 2002
A new Standard & Poors (S&P) report on the credit rating of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico points with concern to the government's precarious budgetary health.
Though the Commonwealth's single `A' credit rating has been unaffected to date, Standard & Poors indicated that the credit of the central government and its agencies is on a credit watch with negative implications.
The S&P report took a dim view of the Commonwealth's recent revelation that a December 2000 prepayment of $193 million for corporate royalty taxes from a large taxpayer had not been screened out of the recurring revenue stream expected in fiscal 2002.
As a result of the Treasury Department's latest lapse, S&P observes that the total of onetime revenue identified to date that will be applied to Puerto Rico's fiscal 2002 budget is approximately $560 million.
S&P anticipates that the Commonwealth will tap into $195 million in "rainy day" and emergency funds, among other reserves, in efforts to balance the budget.
"Projections through the end of the fiscal year indicate that the government could overspend its budget," S&P warns. "The questions remains about the extent of continued revenue and expenditure pressures Puerto Rico will faced in the remainder of fiscal 2002 and in the 2003 budget process."
Two Complaints Filed Against Blue Ribbon Members
By Proviana Colon Diaz
January 11, 2002
Independent Legislator Jorge De Castro Font filed Friday two complaints, one before the Commonwealth Comptroller's Office and one before the Government Ethics Office, to investigate the members of the Blue Ribbon Committee who are not required to file financial reports despite the fact that their working contracts range from $42,000 to $81,600.
Referring to the members of the committee as "the untouchables," De Castro Font questioned Gov. Sila Calderon's promise for a "clean government" when allowing the members of the committee to act "above the law." This is because in the executive order creating the committee, Calderon described the duties of the members as that of a public service employee, yet they are not required to file financial reports before the Government Ethics Office.
"Why is the governor protecting the members of the committee? Why the lack of transparency and clarity with the members of the Blue Ribbon Committee? Why do the untouchables enjoy so many benefits without any obligations?" De Castro Font questioned.
De Castro Font is most concerned with the failure to comply with financial reports because there is no explanation as to how the public funds for the "juicy" contracts are spent.
To sustain his allegations, De Castro Font distributed copies of the contracts for each member of the committee.
Committee Chairman David Noriega's contract is for $48,000 for a maximum 52 working days a year.
Former Commonwealth Comptroller Ileana Colon Carlo, former Justice Secretary Carmen Rita Velez Borras, and former Superior Judge Angel Hermida all get $42,000 for a maximum 52 working days a year.
Hermida, however, receives an additional $48,000 contract as he also acts as the committee's main legal advisor.
Executive Director Brenda Leon receives $81,600 for her duties. Leon needs to work a minimum 8.5 working days per month in order to get a salary of $6,800. If she fails to do so, $68 will be deducted for each hour she fails to complete.
Investigative attorneys Jose Sagardia, Luis Albalaje Ortiz, and Gilberto Vila Perez all get paid $60,000 to work a minimum 8.5 days to received a monthly salary of $5,000. If they fail to do so, $50 will be deducted from their check for each hour they failed to complete.
Auditor Luis Gutierrez receives an income of $48,600 for a minimum 6.75 working days per month in order to receive a $4,500 salary.
PIP: Federal Court Has Agenda With Possible Imprisonment
January 11, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) leadership asserted Friday their position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the federal court in Puerto Rico, for which they are prepared to be imprisoned.
"What they want is to force us to recognize the jurisdiction of the federal court in Puerto Rico... this is [what made] the Holy Inquisition with Galileo," PIP Executive President Sen. Fernando Martin.
The U.S. District Attorney's Office requested the U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico to imprison Martin and PIP Secretary General Vance Thomas for defying the imposition of fines for trespassing on military land in Vieques in 2000.
"When Galileo said the earth moved around the sun, the Inquisition said `this is heresy'," said Martin.
The legislator reiterated in a press conference that neither he nor Thomas will pay a single cent to the federal court.
"If the price of that is to be arrested and imprisoned... let them do it. They already tried to do it once," the PIP leader said.
Martin and Thomas already served several days in prison after refusing to pay the bail that was imposed when they were arrested in the restricted zone by the U.S. Navy in Vieques.
U.S. District Attorney Requests Two PIP Leaders To Be Jailed
January 11, 2002
SAN JUAN (AP) - The U.S. District Attorney's Office requested the imprisonment of Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Executive President Sen. Fernando Martin and PIP Secretary General Vance Thomas, the payment of $10,000, or both for not paying the fine of $1,000.
The request is contained in a motion presented this week to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Hector Laffitte, where District Attorney Rebeca Vargas Vera said the two PIP leaders were notified in several occasions of their debt with the court and if they don't pay it, they could be found in contempt of court, according to published reports.
Martin and Thomas were sentenced to pay the fine July 6, 2000, for civil disobedience acts conducted June 26 of that year. The day of the trial they refused to pay the fine and were returned to prison to be released a few hours later.
11 Officers Arrested In Puerto Rico
January 10, 2002
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Authorities arrested 11 police officers Thursday for allegedly selling arms and drugs and accepting bribes.
The group faces a total of 307 criminal charges, Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez said. She said Puerto Rico's Bureau of Special Investigations uncovered the alleged crimes during an investigation between last February and November.
Eight of the officers worked in the San Juan suburb of Catano, one in the suburb of Guaynabo and two in the U.S. territory's island-wide police force. If they are convicted, each charge carries a sentence of between six months and 30 years, Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the officers set up a scheme to intervene with drug dealers and charge them to let them go free. They also allegedly sold cocaine and at least two pistols to undercover officers, and allegedly served as escorts for shipments of illegal arms from the San Juan area to other parts of the island.
The case is the latest in a series of undercover operations to result in the arrests of police in Puerto Rico.