By The Star Staff
Popular Democratic Party leaders announced Monday they filed a complaint at the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Resident Commissioner primary candidate Elmer Román for breaking federal laws that ban federal employees from participating in partisan elections while in office.
At large Rep. Héctor Ferrer, together with Elba Beatriz Rivera, a District 5 candidate, Cristofer Malespín, a District 3 candidate; Bryan Saavedra, a District 2 candidate; Manuel Calderón Cerame, a District 4 candidate and Gabriel López Arrieta, an at-large House candidate, said Román is breaking the law.
Román said a legal opinion from the Department of Defense allows him to run for resident commissioner because it is an election between local and non-national parties, what is known as a “nonpartisan” election, that is exempt from the ban.
However, the complaint filed by the PDP candidates cites jurisprudence and a manual from the Department of Defense that explains that a nonpartisan election can become a partisan election if certain circumstances occur. Page 3 of the manual, titled “Partisan Political Activity Rules for ‘Less Restricted’ DoD Civilians,” says that “evidence showing that partisan politics entered the campaigns of any of the candidates can invalidate the nonpartisan nature of the race.”
Ferrer said the legal opinion that authorizes Román to run for resident commissioner is based on erroneous premises and ignorance about Puerto Rican politics. Román misled the Department of Defense by downplaying the partisan nature of the race for resident commissioner.
“This complaint will open their eyes,” Ferrer said.
The manual’s warning comes from a U.S. legal opinion issued by the Office of Special Counsel dated December 12, 2007, which addresses a candidacy for municipal judge in a nonpartisan election and instructed the applicant to contact the Special Counsel’s office if “any candidate for municipal judge associates with a political party.”
According to the complaint, there is evidence that U.S. partisan politics between Democrats and Republicans are part of the candidates’ campaigns for resident commissioner. Therefore, they turned it into a partisan election under the Hatch Act.
The complaint cites several interviews in which Román claims to be a Republican or of “republican inclination,” and cites interviews with Román’s primary opponents; William Villafañe and José “Quiquito” Meléndez, stating that they are Republicans.
The complaint also cites statements by PPD Resident Commissioner candidate, Pablo José Hernández Rivera, highlighting his Democratic Party affiliation and criticizing the Republican affiliation of the NPP candidates. Likewise, the complaint highlights that in the last five elections, the majority of NPP and PDP candidates have filed their candidacies before the Federal Election Commission as Democrats or Republicans, including Hernández Rivera and Meléndez in this electoral cycle. Finally, the complaint emphasizes that resident commissioners often join the caucus of a national party and have a vote on congressional committees.
The complaint also cites the federal case of Campbell v. Merit Systems Protection Board of 1994, where the Federal Circuit explained that if a candidate does not deny a third party affiliation with a party, this fact could be used as evidence that he violated the Hatch Act.
Manuel Calderón Cerame and Gabriel López highlighted that Jenniffer González was the first to identify Román as a Republican, interrupting him on a television program in which he tried to evade the question about his political affiliation by saying that he was of “republican inclination.”
Meanwhile, Román stated in a press release that “this is nothing more than another ball of smoke that they have released.”
He added that it is a “frivolous complaint” and assured that the PPD’s complaint is “ill-intentioned and without any merit” and that it will not stop its mission of working for equality for Puerto Rico.