Lawmaker files ethics complaint over school bus contracts between DE and Arecibo mayor’s firm
By The Star Staff
New Progressive Party Rep. José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz has filed a complaint at the Government Ethics Office (OEG by its Spanish initials) to the affect that Arecibo Mayor Carlos “Tito” Ramírez Irizarry may be engaged in a conflict of interest for having a contract with the Department of Education (DE) while serving as mayor.
“We are concerned that the position held by Mr. Ramírez, as resident agent, president and treasurer of Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc., while serving as mayor of the Municipality of Arecibo, without a waiver to perform both positions, could degenerate into a conflict of interest, which is detrimental to the good name of Puerto Rico. Furthermore, this affects the transparency with which those who run government institutions must operate, which is crucial to avoid corruption,” the lawmaker said Monday in a written statement.
The conflict, Meléndez Ortiz said, stems from the fact that the corporation, with registration number 131250 and named Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc. (incorporated on Oct. 17, 2002), currently has the mayor of Arecibo as its resident agent. He signed a contract with the Education Department while exercising the mayor’s functions without obtaining a waiver.
Specifically, on March 1, 2021, the DE awarded Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc. contracts number 2021-RA0009, 2021-RA0010, 2021-RA0011 and 2021-RA0017.
The company is dedicated to the transportation of DE students, and special and educational tours, as well as other tours requested by the general public.
“According to the oversight function that falls to me as an at-large representative, I refer to your attention what, in our opinion, is an evident commission of actions that violate ethical principles, among other legal and regulatory norms that we are obligated to uphold in the performance of our duties and that give the appearance of being perpetrated by the Hon. Carlos ‘Tito’ Ramírez Irizarry, mayor of the Municipality of Arecibo, who, in turn, is resident agent, president and treasurer of Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc.,” reads the letter sent in early November to OEG Executive Director Luis A. Pérez.
It is worth mentioning that Ramírez Irizarry himself did not sign the contracts, but rather they were signed by a Karla M. Ramírez Vilella, in her alleged capacity as secretary of Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc., on the aforementioned date of March 1, 2021.
However, in a corporate resolution of Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc. of March 4, 2021, the company’s board of directors agreed to authorize Ramírez Vilella to sign offers, subscribe to contracts, and all types of documents as required by central government agencies, public corporations and municipalities.
“Ms. Karla M. Ramírez Vilella signed four contracts with the Department of Education of Puerto Rico, three days before having the endorsement of the Board of Directors of Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc., to carry out said type of management,” the legislator noted. “Therefore, the possible nullity of the contracts should be evaluated, since a person signed them without the authority to do so.”
Meléndez Ortiz added that although there is no waiver from the OEG for such purposes, the contracts between Tito Ramírez Bus Service Inc. and the DE have not ceased.