Guaynabo mayoral hopeful gives his version of suit for alleged sexual harassment
By Cindy A. Burgos Alvarado and Limarys Suárez
SAN JUAN – Just days before the new mayor Guaynabo is elected, one of the position’s hopefuls, former Rep. Ángel Pérez, presented his version of the events regarding a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal that involved two of his former employees while he worked in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.
The 2008 lawsuit was presented in federal court by the alleged victim, Pérez’s former secretary, who claimed that the legislator’s special assistant back then, Ismael Bonilla Hernández, sexually harassed her, resulting in her dismissal from her post in the House. The alleged victim requested close to $400,000 in damages and for medical expenses.
The woman, who won’t be named to protect her identity, alleged in the lawsuit against the House of Representatives that between 2004 and 2006 she was subject to an alleged “pattern” of sexual harassment from Bonilla Hernández, verbally and via messages and phone calls. Although she allegedly took the complaint to Pérez and wasn’t properly informed of the steps to take and, because she kept reporting the pattern, she was laid off from her position, she argued.
The suit was settled in 2010 for $75,000, a source with knowledge of the case said. The settlement was paid by the House with the maximum the government pays in judicial cases for damages to a person or property.
“If I had acted incorrectly, I’m suable… She didn’t sue me because I acted correctly. Once she brings up the situation to me, I gave her a her an appointment with attorney Raúl Santiago, who is my friend and the best man in Sen. Carmelo Ríos’s [the other Guaynabo mayoral hopeful] wedding. That same day we stood up from there and left, and met up with the director of Human Resources and they gave her guidance,” Pérez told Caribbean Business.
The former legislator said he requested the sexual harassment protocol be put in effect, an investigation was begun, and the alleged victim was allowed to use her vacation leave while the case was elucidated.
When the alleged victim returned from her leave, Pérez claimed that a report came from the Comptroller’s Office “making some very serious accusations against her,” and was therefore told she could resign or be fired, but that it was unrelated to the sexual harassment complaint she had filed. “She requested I fire her so she could collect, that is why I did it that way,” he said.
“I had no intervention in the transaction, I never gave a deposition. The transaction was between the House and her,” said Pérez, adding he did not know the reason she alleged in the lawsuit that she was fired for her sexual harassment complaint.
Although Pérez didn’t provide details of the dismissal, the complaint establishes that the alleged victim had found out through a rumor that they had found pornographic material on her computer.
In response to the lawsuit, the House denied the alleged victim’s allegations and declared that due process was followed, that she was not discriminated against, and that the decision not to renew the 2006 contract was not related to the sexual harassment case, but to “legitimate reasons.” The woman was supposedly asked about the pornography sites found in her computer browser history and she “never denied” the accusations.
Caribbean Business reviewed reports from the Comptroller’s Office in the timeframe when the alleged victim worked for the House to determine if, in effect, there had been an accusation against her, but her name doesn’t appear in any of the three reports related to that legislative body published in 2012, 2011 or 2007. Pérez was not found in a report evaluated by the Special Joint Committee on legislative donations published in 2006.
Neither were there references to administrative assistants such as those who made questionable acts before the Comptroller’s Office.
In response to questions by Caribbean Business, the Comptroller’s Office’s press official, Lisandra Rivera, revised the entity’s documents and argued there weren’t indications that involve the former House employee.
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