Ángel Pérez to bring new style of governing to Guaynabo
Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the August 10 print edition of Caribbean Business.
SAN JUAN — The new mayor of Guaynabo, Ángel Pérez, has his mind focused and his agenda full. He wants a “new system of governance” at the city hall in which employees and citizens are heard; honesty, transparency and openness; and to correct the past fiscal and administrative errors.
In an attempt to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor, Héctor O’Neill, who resigned in disgrace, Pérez promised that as soon as he is sworn into his new position, he will meet with representatives of the Government Ethics, Comptroller’s and Women’s Advocate offices to “verify any type of evidence” and investigations related to the Municipality of Guaynabo.
“We are going to be collaborating totally,” Pérez said in reference to the investigation carried out by the Government Ethics and Comptroller’s offices, as well as the corrections the Women’s Advocate requested from the city council about its sexual harassment policies. For these errors, Guaynabo received negative reports and a fine of up to $30,000 from the Women’s Advocate.
Pérez takes the Guaynabo mayor’s seat after O’Neill resigned amid a scandal over an alleged case of sexual harassment against one of his employees, a municipal police officer.
The good news about being elected mayor came with a harsh blow to Pérez and his family: the loss of his nephew, his nephew’s wife and their daughters, victims of a crime in Dorado. Of the tragedy, only the youngest of the children survived. Regarding this situation, Pérez asked the public to collaborate with the police to capture the gunmen involved in the incident.
The burial of his relatives could delay Pérez’s inauguration as Guaynabo’s new municipal executive, a matter that should take place next week, after he completes training by the Government Ethics and Comptroller’s offices.
The mayor-elect expects that his wife, Judge Liza Fernández, will swear him in, but whether this may be possible is under evaluation. Regarding the functions of Fernández as judge and Guaynabo’s First Lady, Pérez said they do not represent a conflict of interest since she would abstain from participating in political events, as has happened thus far.
Earlier this week, the new municipal executive was received with cheers and applause at Guaynabo City Hall, where in the past days there have been massive resignations, mainly from employees of trust, giving space to the new administration to set up its own team.
In his first week as mayor, Pérez wants to delve into Guaynabo’s true economic numbers, which he denounced had remained partially hidden during the special election process. To this end, he appointed his campaign director, Antonio Pabón, as chairman of the Transition Committee, expecting the process to be “transparent,” with full access to the books, as previously agreed to.
Although they did not want to meet with Pérez during the special election’s campaign process, the alternate spokesman for Guaynabo’s New Progressive Party (NPP) majority Municipal Assembly, Luis Rodríguez Díaz, said they are willing to collaborate with the new administration.
“We will not be a stumbling block; on the contrary, we will be facilitators and collaborators,” said Rodríguez Díaz, who plans to meet with the new mayor this week to draw up their working agenda.
Despite clashes between the different sides, Pérez said the NPP remains united.
An election that exceeded expectations
NPP Electoral Commissioner Norma Burgos told Caribbean Business that Guaynabo’s special election exceeded expectations, since 53.25% of those eligible cast ballots, defined as those who are NPP-affiliated. Although about 12,000 people were expected to participate, 19,195 people ended up voting Aug. 5.
Of these, 3,659 votes were added by hand, but only 64 votes could be counted, since they were the only ones certified to be members of the NPP, according to the final data on the general vote. As a result, the final number of verified NPP-affiliated voters was 15,662 people.
Burgos said the process was transparent and flowed without irregularities. The differences in the process—some related to the presence of pollsters at the polling stations—were sorted out between the representatives of both candidates in unanimous decisions.
“There was not a single case to be addressed by the local board…. There were no irregularities,” she said.
On election day, Pérez was victorious with 69.96% of the votes (10,869 votes), surpassing his opponent, Sen. Carmelo Ríos, who took 30.04% of the votes (4,667).