Governor’s representative to Puerto Rico fiscal board steps down
SAN JUAN – After just over six months representing Puerto Rico’s government before its fiscal control board, attorney Elías Sánchez resigned his position, effective Wednesday.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló appointed Thursday the president of the Government Development Bank (GDB), attorney Christian Sobrino, as his representative to the fiscal board. Sobrino will take Sánchez’s seat, which the governor stressed will serve to promote the economic development agenda for the island before the federally established board and ensure the implementation of the fiscal plan to benefit the people of Puerto Rico. The position has a voice, but no vote.
“The representation of the Governor of Puerto Rico on the Oversight Board is an exclusive prerogative of the Governor,” board Chairman José Carrión said in a statement. “We had the opportunity to work very closely with Mr. Sánchez-Sifonte. Elías was always available, committed and dedicated to represent with determination the Governor’s postures before the Board. I personally thank him for his work and wish him success in his future endeavors. And anticipate with enthusiasm the opportunity to work likewise with the new representative that the Governor may see fit to designate….”
“It’s not getting off the bus, you’ll ever find more support [for the governor] than mine. I am convinced this is what Puerto Rico needs. But…my job was to put the process on track, and it already is,” Sánchez said about his resignation in a WKAQ radio interview.
The governor thanked Sánchez for his work and described his performance before the fiscal control board as “highly competent, addressing very complex situations with great professional skill.”
“As governor, I wish to thank Mr. Elías Sánchez Sifonte for his willingness to serve Puerto Rico, his commitment to our administration and, on a personal level, our respect and esteem,” Rosselló said.
Sánchez, who led Rosselló’s transition committee, said the governor knew two weeks ago about his resignation, but does not know if he has a substitute for the post.
Although he acknowledged that the Puerto Rico government’s current situation ahead of the renegotiation of its debt in federal court “is serious,” Sánchez said he did not leave the board for that reason, since the worst happened in January “and we said: ‘Let’s take it on.'”
“What I leave pending is there must now be a change in what the discourse of the fiscal situation has been,” said the former government representative, who insisted he differs from the board in that it has the power to impose an employee furlough.
Although Chairman Carrión has said he is willing to go to court if the Rosselló administration failed to comply and a cut to public employee work hours was required, Sánchez is confident “the government will comply.”
Sánchez’s resignation comes amid questioning by the Espacios Abiertos organization, which accuses the fiscal board of presenting “incomplete” information related to the financial interests of its members.
Sánchez was one of the less compliant members after board Deputy Director Ramón Ruiz Comas. For Espacios Abiertos, the former government representative to the board provided only 63.6 percent of the data required, failing to provide neither the certification of the ethics adviser nor his and his wife’s assets, income and retirement accounts.
Prof. Ángel Rosa, a political analyst, said he believes Sánchez was partly responsible for the Rosselló administration’s effective communications.
“[Sánchez] has the right to have a professional life. He knows what’s coming and understands it well. He has seen it discussed and doesn’t want to be one of those who place their signatures on what awaits the country in the coming years,” said Rosa, referring to the possible imposition of a reduction of public employee work hours and cuts to healthcare.