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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Salinas mayor says she will appeal GEO fine

Salinas Mayor Karilyn Bonilla Colón

By The Star Staff

Salinas Mayor Karilyn Bonilla Colón said Monday that she will appeal a $19,000 fine imposed by the Government Ethics Office (GEO).

The GEO recommended the fine for the appointment of an administrative assistant as interim director of the southern coastal municipality’s Office of Finance from October 2017 until Aug. 5, 2018 and from Oct. 24, 2018 to July 31, 2020.

“Due to the need for service, the person was assigned additional tasks to his position as Administrative Assistant while the appointment of a director of the Finance Department was completed,” the mayor said. “In fact, the assistant was never properly appointed as director, and currently she no longer works in the Municipality of Salinas.”

“The problem is that the GEO resolved the case without giving us an opportunity to hear it, violating due process of law,” Bonilla Colón added. “This is a selective case. […] New Progressive Party mayors have had the same administrative accusations without being fined, and there are not even complaints from Ethics.”

For instance, Nino Correa Filomeno, the commissioner of the island Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Administration, held that position on an interim basis for three years, due to the need for services, without meeting the requirements of the law. In this case, the GEO did not single out Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

“What happened here was the payment of a differential that was given to an employee to perform additional tasks, in accordance with the defunct Law of Autonomous Municipalities, due to the resignation of the Director of Finance and so as not to paralyze municipal operations,” said Bonilla Colón, a member of the Popular Democratic Party. “There is no misappropriation of public funds here, nor any intention of profit. Furthermore, the GEO did not give us the opportunity to express ourselves or present witnesses.”

The mayor noted that the municipality, in the midst of the events of Hurricane Maria and the pandemic, suffered alterations in its operations, which delayed the appointment of a finance director.

The tasks of a finance director are critical in the functioning of every municipality, the GEO said in justifying the decision.

However, the mayor said it did not consider it in this case and deprived the mayor of presenting witnesses to explain the circumstances experienced by the municipality.

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