• The San Juan Daily Star

Ex-Guaynabo deputy mayor says she wasn’t interviewed in Pérez Otero case

At the podium, Mariela Vallines Fernández, the former deputy mayor of Guaynabo

By John McPhaul

The former deputy mayor of Guaynabo, Mariela Vallines Fernández, said Wednesday that at no time was she interviewed by a federal grand jury to explain the process that was followed to award a contract to the company Island Builders, which is linked to disgraced lawyer Oscar Santamaría Torres, who pleaded guilty to crimes of public corruption.

“Nobody has asked me, nobody has interviewed me,” Vallines Fernández said in response to questions from the press. “The first time I have spoken publicly about the issue is now.”

Vallines Fernández denied that she witnessed or was aware of a meeting in which money was offered in exchange for contracts by then-mayor Ángel Pérez Otero.

When asked why Pérez Otero did not sign contracts, Vallines Fernández answered that as she understood it, the function was delegated to her to lower the then-mayor’s workload.

“But I want to be clear and I take this opportunity to clarify that the contract that was signed does not have any type of indications,” she said. “If there were different agreements, I cannot answer for that.”

Vallines Fernández described the role she had in the process for Island Builders to obtain a contract for construction work in the municipality.

“Mayor Ángel Pérez had delegated the function of signing the contracts to me, as deputy mayor of Guaynabo,” she said. “If you go to the records on the Comptroller’s website, you will probably find that 99 percent of the contracts that arose during my tenure were signed by me. As for the Island Builders contract, I can clarify that the contract we are talking about arises as a result of a bid that was announced by the Municipality of Guaynabo, to do asphalt work on the roads of the Río neighborhood.”

“That auction was declared what is called a deserted auction, which means that no company came to present proposals,” she said. “When that happens, the Municipal Code establishes which mechanism to follow and that is to go to the Municipal Assembly, so that the Assembly by means of a resolution authorizes the mayor to request proposals from the proponents who are interested in taking the work. That process was carried out, the Municipal Assembly authorized the mayor to request proposals from the proponents who are interested in order to actually carry out the work. This was delegated to the director of the Department of Public Works [Wilfredo Martínez Vázquez], which is the agency that was in charge of the work to be hired.”

On Tuesday, the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel determined to suspend the salary and any other economic benefits to Pérez Otero, who is facing federal corruption charges and is resigning as mayor.

The order of the panel, addressed to the acting mayor, Luisa Colom García, prohibits Pérez Otero from collecting any payment or economic benefit from the municipal coffers as of the date of the Resolution issued on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, after the term granted to Pérez Otero to present his position on the sanction in question had elapsed.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that if federal authorities give him information about alleged corruption of an official in his cabinet, he will take action, but not if the complaint were at the state level.

“If I get my information that any official of the executive branch, which is the one I lead, is the object of a complaint or a federal investigation for corruption, that person will be out,” the governor said at a press conference. “I’m going to ask you to resign immediately, there are no exceptions. And I’m talking about a corruption investigation by federal agencies. That is different from when cases occur at the local level.”

“Because here when they file complaints there are times when people file complaints for partisan political reasons. They file complaints for ideological reasons,” Pierluisi added. “And neither can I, because someone complains, immediately accept the complaint as good; there are some processes that have to be followed. And I explain that clearly, so that no one thinks that because someone comes and files a complaint with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Special Investigations, the Government Ethics Office, merely because a complaint was filed, they lose confidence in the person, no. No, because from my experience as secretary of Justice I know that some abuse power. I know that some try to use the judiciary to advance ideological or partisan political causes and that does not work with me.”

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