With only days remaining until his final departure, the administration of Mayor María Meléndez Altieri is hastily maneuvering to ensure the disbursement of almost half a million dollars in settlements to trusted employees.
According to records of the Municipal Office of Human Resources, the balances of vacations and sick days of 47 trusted employees – including department directors, administrative managers and executive assistants – would entail a fiscal hemorrhage of $ 487,699.
Although historically this process requires months to complete, La Perla del Sur learned that the Municipal Office of Human Resources has been working for weeks to process the settlements and disburse all the public funds, before the new administration was sworn in on 11 January.
Likewise, this media learned that most of the aforementioned employees scheduled to cease their duties on Friday, January 1, a week and a half before the end of the current municipal administration’s term.
“We became aware last week that many of them have already submitted their resignation letter and are in a hurry, walking the steps with the Human Resources Office to request their liquidations,” acknowledged Mayra Rivera Nazario, president of the Employees Union Municipal affiliated to the United Steel Workers.
“It is an act of extreme irresponsibility that they are trying to guarantee these juicy settlements, when there are still regular employees with starvation wages due to reduced working hours,” he continued.
“This is bleeding the coffers of the municipality one last time, as they go out the back door,” he added.
The claim of the trusted employees occurs at the time that Senate Bill 1676 -which would prohibit the payment of excess day payments for vacations and sickness in the municipalities- awaits the signature of the outgoing governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced . This after being approved in the legislature.
In the Mayor’s Office of Ponce, this is not the first time that the payment of juicy liquidations has been managed, while hundreds of regular employees are restricted in their hours and salaries.
In June 2019, both the outgoing mayor and her municipal secretary, Jessica Nieves Soto, collected $ 15,575 and $ 23,343 respectively, in vacation settlements, while denying the same benefit to the rest of municipal employees with Ordinance # 5 of 2018 -2019.
In his justification, Meléndez Altieri has reiterated that the ordinance “does not apply to the mayor.” A complaint filed before the Special Independent Prosecutor (FEI) was unsuccessful and is currently being appealed.
Ordinance # 5 of 2018-2019 was subsequently repealed: on November 17.
With the suitcases full
“The analysis highlights that most of these people have very high vacation totals, which tells us that they were not enjoying their days or in some way they were not registering the use of vacation time or illness,” said the co-chair of the Incoming Transition Committee, Mayra López Álvarez.
Among those who claim settlements this month is Cándida León Ribas, who from the Mayor’s Office directed the Planning and Development Department, earning a salary of $ 90 thousand per year. Your payoff would be $ 60,962, which is equal to the average annual salary of three regular municipal employees.
The right hand of the mayor, Jessica Nieves Soto, also reappears on the list, who 18 months ago obtained a disbursement of $ 23,343 and now would receive another settlement of $ 45,721, according to the official balance sheet count of the city council.
The director of the Citizen Aid Office, Omayra Colón Pérez, would receive $ 41,149, while the administrative manager in Municipal Education, Carmen Bravo Ramírez would obtain $ 31,460.
Other juicy settlements would go to the director of the WIA Program, Arnold Ramos Bocachica ($ 37,482); the Director of Information Technology and Technology Carlos Colón Martínez ($ 32,513), the administrative manager in the Mayor’s Office, Egbert Quiñones Soto ($ 29,517); and Head Start Program Director Javier Negrón Olivieri ($ 26,900).
Added to the list is the administrative manager Marie R. Batisttini Ramírez ($ 16,488), the administrative secretary of the Municipal Legislature, Noemí Ortiz Montalvo ($ 15,228); the director of Engineering, Juan Sánchez Soldevila ($ 14,062); the director of the Legal Division, Ricardo Pérez Martínez ($ 12,963); the director of Territorial Planning, Luis Raúl López Serrano ($ 12,697); the administrative officer Brendaly González Vélez ($ 11,129) and the director of Municipal Education, Enrique Torres Turell ($ 10,191).
Among the trusted employees entitled to reinstatement are the acting director of Human Resources himself, Rodney Crespo Vargas ($ 27,290); the director of Housing and Socioeconomic Development, Ernick Mercado Olavarría ($ 30,525); the director of OMMEAD, Ángel M. Vázquez Torres ($ 13,474) and the administrative manager in the Finance Office, Yolanda Cruz Medina ($ 11,086).
At least 20 trusted employees would receive payments in excess of $ 10,000.
The speed with which they try to process these settlements also contrasts with the way in which the Meléndez Altieri administration has managed the same disbursement to regular city council employees. Some have even had to wait years to receive their payments.
“These trusted employees should not be given preferential treatment, when for years, we know that employees who have left or retired have had to wait years to receive their settlement,” said the elected mayor, Luis Irizarry Pabón.
“It is everyone’s knowledge that we are receiving a municipality with serious economic problems. We urge the outgoing administration to act with prudence and not to proceed with these payments in a hasty manner, without first having the opportunity to evaluate them ”, he added.
“(Paying it now) would not be a healthy administration action, especially when it is a process that the incoming government must know about, because there is a deficit situation and this would put the incoming administration in a very difficult position to operate,” he said. his part López Álvarez.
Likewise, Rivera Nazario indicated that the hasty payment of these settlements could have the effect of further moving away the restoration of the full working day of hundreds of regular municipal employees.
“It is inconceivable that bosses walk away with these hefty payoffs and employees stay to do the job and many don’t even know when they are going to have their full time. There are no words to express the frustration we feel, ”said the union leader.