Judge gives parties until Monday to resolve LUMA documents dispute
After grid operator CEO defends right to ‘protect’ his employees, House speaker scolds governor for remarks on what data to make public
By John McPhaul
LUMA Energy President & CEO Wayne Stensby reappeared briefly Wednesday evening outside his attorney’s office in Hato Rey after Superior Court Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos placed “in suspension” an arrest warrant against Stensby for civil contempt for failing to comply with orders to turn over documents to an island House of Representatives committee investigation.
“We fully complied with the order,” Stensby told reporters. “I respect the courts of Puerto Rico but I am going to protect my employees.”
Cuevas Ramos gave the parties until Monday to straighten out the controversy.
Earlier on Wednesday, from a “clandestine location,” as one newspaper put it, Stensby read a written statement saying, “We believe that the Puerto Rican people deserve full transparency by all parties regarding the actions that have been taken, are being taken, and will be taken to improve Puerto Rico’s electrical system.”
“LUMA also supports, and will continue to support, sincere transparency efforts,” he said, adding “I would like to offer my personal and professional commitment to working with all essential stakeholders in Puerto Rico, including the courts, public officials, and other stakeholders to help build a transformative energy system in Puerto Rico for the future.”
“My words reflect the deep responsibility that all of us at LUMA have to improve the lives of the people we serve,” Stensby added.
On Thursday, Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez warned that despite Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s “defense” of Stensby, he will make the company’s documents public on Monday.
“First, there are no controversies in the [lower] chamber,” Hernández Montañez said at a press conference. “This is the power of the Legislative Assembly that is being fully and responsibly fulfilled. And it is not going to end, because this is going to be the standard and it will be the standard throughout the four-year term. So, if you want this to end on Monday, this is starting.”
“Second, what a shame! Because yesterday we asked the governor to join the judiciary and the Legislature in a demand for transparency and accountability,” the House speaker continued. “That is the least I expected from the governor, who without completing the process of what we are going to publicly air, is already defending the party and establishing what is to be disclosed or what is not to be disclosed. The first thing is that, if there is respect for the separation of powers, he would not make a statement like that because that is an exclusive statement of the House of Representatives. And we are going to take it and we are going to make it public on Monday.”
Pierluisi declined to comment Thursday on whether Stensby should resign as CEO of LUMA Energy, due to the image damage created by the controversy over the delivery of documents to the House.
“That is already an internal question for LUMA,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “I am focused on ensuring that electrical service is being provided, that the response to any breakdown is as fast as possible, that we do not have the blackouts that we had with the failures in the power plants again. What I want to see is improvement and that is happening.”
In his opinion, Pierluisi said, the situation around Stensby does not harm the image of Puerto Rico.
“Here we are a society of law and order and if anything this case has confirmed, according to the guidelines of the judge himself, that we have an independent judicial system that makes decisions when there is any controversy like this,” the governor said. “What I want is for this controversy to be left behind in order to concentrate on what is important, which is to transform the electrical system, to improve it, to make it more stable, resilient and at the lowest possible cost.”
Regarding the arrest warrant and the perception that the CEO of LUMA did not appear Wednesday when he was wanted by marshals, the governor said “I am not going to go into that.”
“These are internal decisions of the company and also to be talking about a fugitive, not a fugitive, here what there is is an arrest warrant, which is currently suspended in its effectiveness until Monday,” he said. “So we are going to focus on ending the controversy on Monday.”
Also on Thursday, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said she didn’t understand the controversy that has been brewing over the failure of LUMA to turn over documents to the House of Representatives.
“What interests me is that people have lights,” she said. “I think that the most important thing here, for me, is that people have power, that there is transmission, that affordable, cheap electricity is distributed and that people, when they get home, do not have to be dealing with a six-hour or seven-hour blackout.”
“That, in my opinion, is being corrected,” the resident commissioner added. “It has not been finished, but it is gradually being corrected.”