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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Emergency managers union alleges chaos at NMEAD

By John McPhaul

Authentic Union of Emergency Managers President Liz M. Colón Alicea said Tuesday that she agrees with the statements of former Emergency Management and Disaster Administration Bureau (NMEAD by its Spanish acronym) directors Nazario Lugo, Ángel Crespo and Heriberto Sauri regarding the current role of the bureau and the administrative deficiencies that prevail in it.

“We have repeatedly publicly denounced the dismantling of NMEAD and other bureaus attached to the Department of Public Safety,” Colón Alicea said. “And nothing has happened, given that these complaints have been regarded as attacks, without giving importance to the problems and deficiencies that currently exist in the administrative processes in NMEAD.”

The union spokeswoman listed several examples that she said show the administrative problems faced by NMEAD, which she insisted are “serious and drastic,” one of which being the poor functioning of the assistance system, given that many issues have arisen with system since the integration process under the Public Safety Department (DSP by its Spanish initials). Colón Alicea noted that about a year ago the system started accumulating erroneous transactions, including with vacation and sick leave, which are supposed to be conducted on the first day of each month.

The union leader also noted a problem that exists with overtime payments owed to NMEAD employees due to previous emergencies, stating that as a result of several complaints made in the media, the DSP administration and NMEAD issued the payments, but when they were made, they were issued to only a few specific employees, leaving a large part of the emergency managers out, despite having been active working before, during and after the aforementioned emergencies. In addition, the payments that were made were issued incorrectly such that the number of hours worked did not match the overtime paid.

The union spokesperson said the vast majority of NMEAD employees are overwhelmed and upset because they are always excluded from the benefits granted to first responders. Colón Alicea said that has been an ongoing issue since 2008, without any salary increase. Most of the bureau’s professionals currently have a base salary of $1,341, well below the cost of living on the island, she said. Colón Alicea said that is unfair to NMEAD employees given that when, due to the bureau’s essential mission, they are activated to perform multiple functions when an emergency situation arises. That means they must suspend performing the essential functions of their position in order to perform the functions determined under the structure of the National Incident Management System.

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