Monday, September 16, 2019

Puerto Rico Senate president calls fiscal board request ‘a good idea’

By on August 15, 2018

SAN JUAN – Fantastic. That is what Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz called the Financial Oversight and Management Board’s request to review the government’s contracts with marketing firm KOI Americas.

The lawmaker’s praises come a day after House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez announced that the legislative leaders would be appealing Judge Laura Taylor Swain’s decision that the fiscal board-certified budget–not the one passed and approved via the constitutional process–be put in force.

After announcing that the Senate was appealing the ruling as well, Rivera Schatz argued that the legislature had the responsibility to continue that process and was confident of prevailing in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

“The Government of Puerto Rico is the one responsible for making [budget] determinations. We respect the decision of the judge. We know there are limitations because of our colonial status, which is the real problem we have, but it is our duty to insist on our demands,” Rivera Schatz said.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (CB file photo)

The senator alluded to previous instances in which the Boston court revoked decisions made by Judge Swain, who presides over the Title III court created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (Promesa). One of the most recent examples is the First Circuit’s decision to side with Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority bondholders in their request that the utility be forced into receivership.

The Senate leader made his remarks about the appeal process during the same press conference in which he spoke about a letter the fiscal board sent to Raúl Maldonado, the government administration’s chief financial officer (CFO). In its letter, the board requests that the the Treasury, Convention District Authority, Economic Development Bank and Transit Security Commission provide the panel with all contracts it has with an advertising and public affairs firm, KOI Americas.

Rivera Schatz acknowledged that, although he has had disagreements with the fiscal board, he has no problem recognizing when the panel takes the right course of action.

“When they [fiscal board] came against Act 80, I said, ‘a good idea is good, wherever it comes from, and a bad idea is bad, wherever it comes from.’ Therefore, if I have always said that contracts need to be subject to scrutiny, it doesn’t matter who says it. There is no incongruence; on the contrary, there is consistency. The contracts must be under public scrutiny,” the Senate president said.

Furthermore, the lawmaker “invited” both the fiscal board and the public to continue to look into all areas of the government.

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