Puerto Rico gov requests dismissal of Statistics Institute lawsuit
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Department of Justice, on behalf of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, requested San Juan’s Court of First Instance to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the director of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (PRSI), Mario Marazzi, to determine which of its board members have the power to make decisions at the institution.
According to the Nov. 27 brief, Marazzi does not have the legal authority to file the appeal without the authorization of the PRSI’s board, thus the suit should be dismissed.
Justice further argues that PRSI is subsidized by the General Fund and therefore falls under Act 3 of 2017, which allows the governor to replace members of he feels they do not align with his public policy.
According to the appeal, a copy of which was obtained by Caribbean Business, it should be concluded that the main claim is not “justiciable” because the institute’s executive director is not legally empowered to file a claim on his own on behalf of the institute.
The dispute arose after Rosselló dismissed four of the board’s seven members in July for alleged problems with the gathering of government data and a lack of integration with the rest of the agencies.
The dismissed members did not recognize the governor’s action and claimed it violated their rights. In response, as institute representative, Marazzi sued all board members, including those dismissed and newly appointed, for the court to end the controversy.
The legal appeal also requests a preliminary injunction to order the defendants to “cease and desist from carrying out acts as members of the Board” until the court issues a declaratory judgment.
To date, Judge Anthony Cuevas has yet to schedule a hearing to address the dispute.
During the past few months, two of the defendant members, the economist Dr. Antonio Fernós Segabién and Dr. Ana L. Dávila Román, filed an appeal to include Rosselló in the lawsuit, an action that led the Justice secretary to request the dismissal of the original recourse.
The plaintiffs argue the governor’s dismissal of board members does not comply with the PRSI’s enabling act. According to the lawsuit, one of the entity’s pillars is its administrative autonomy from the executive branch, and that the principle was violated with the appointment of María Gordillo Pérez, who also heads the Planning Board.
Gordillo Pérez was confirmed as board member a few weeks ago and, if the lawsuit were dismissed, would become the institute’s chairwoman.
According to the lawsuit, the designation of Gordillo Pérez represents a conflict of interest because the Planning Board generates the data and economic projections that the institute would then independently validate.
One of the claims made by the government to justify the dismissal of the PRSI’s board members was the need for the institute to work more closely with the Planning Board.
Regarding the other board nominee, Jeanelle Alemar Escabí, a CPA and attorney, the lawsuit claims her appointment violates the law’s requirement that members be reputable professionals in the field statistics, economics or planning. Alemar Escabí’s appointment is still pending consideration by the Senate.
The other person appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate is Álex López Echegaray, who holds a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in quantitative methods and was part of the board on an interim basis at the time of his nomination. The musician, he was named in his first term during the administration of former Gov. Luis Fortuño and now renamed by Rosselló.
Amid this process, the governor left board Secretary Antonio Cruz Sanabria and CPA Bethsié Rosa Reyes in their seats and asked the agency to keep Marazzi, who holds a doctoral degree in economics and whose reputation is widely recognized, as executive director.