Some 100 Cataño employees protest mayoral transition
By John McPhaul
Cataño municipal employees staged a protest Monday morning in front of the town hall protesting the decision of the New Progressive Party’s board of directors to name Julio Alicea Vasallo as the town’s mayor, ruling out a possible open election that would give the acting mayor, Gabriel Sicardó, a chance to run.
At the site, about 100 employees were demanding that a vote be held to elect the new mayor.
Police reported that the protest was carried out in complete order, but Alicea said the protesters were preventing municipal employees from entering the municipal building.
“Those employees who follow instructions that [lead them to commit] crimes should know that the right to protest is on their side, but not the right to prevent other municipal employees from entering to fulfill their functions,” he said. “Pretending to close the mayor’s office on a whim shows recklessness, fear of what may be found there and little respect for the processes that shelter us in our rule of law.”
Alicea called on Sicardó to restore order to the municipality or he will continue to be an accomplice of those who violate the law.
“Furthermore, the continuity of services to the people cannot depend on the whim of an official or be kidnapped by someone who obviously is not afraid to operate outside the law and who does anything to maintain his temporary position of privilege,” the incoming mayor said. “For employees who feel pressured by the acting mayor, know that that style of dictatorial management has its days numbered. Most of the municipal employees have my trust and I know of their commitment.”
On Sunday, the NPP board of directors moved to certify Alicea as mayor of Cataño.
“Given the decision of the board of directors, what happens next will be to close an embarrassing chapter and open a new one full of great opportunities and an honest government for Cataño,” Alicea said Sunday. “This is not the time to spread fear to regular, temporary or trust employees. I know that many gave and give their best with their serious commitment to public service. I reiterate, I will not fire temporary employees, whether they have favored my candidacy or not.”
He said Monday that if the current scenario continues, his priority will be to ensure internal controls so that the municipality does not have “days of shame again.”
“I have on the agenda to coordinate meetings with the comptroller of Puerto Rico and with other state or federal agencies that work to identify public corruption so that they know that there is a mayor who acts on his word,” Alicea said in a written statement. “It is time for the acting mayor to take responsibility for it; for the contracts of companies indicted for corrupt acts that he certified as correct and endorsed, for the extravagant expenses that he justified, for the excesses he saw in Félix Delgado and kept silent, or for allowing the use of funds and public property to advance his candidacy.”