Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Puerto Rico Statistics Institute sues its own board

By on July 28, 2017

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (PRSI) has sued all members of its own board, including those dismissed and newly appointed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, for the Court of First Instance in San Juan to determine which members are truly authorized to make decisions at the institution.

The legal recourse also seeks a preliminary injunction to order the defendants to “cease and desist from carrying out acts as members of the Board of Directors” of the institute, until the court issues a declaratory judgment.

The lawsuit seeks to determine the scope of article 29 of Act 3 of 2017—the Law to Address the Economic, Fiscal and Budgetary Crisis to Guarantee the Functioning of the Government—which allows the governor to dismiss members of agency and public corporation boards.

This is why the legal appeal states that it is necessary to know if Act 3 applies only to natural persons appointed to government boards as of Jan. 23, the date the legislation was approved and entered into force, or if it can be applied retroactively, even if the dismissal arises without just cause, prior imposition of charges or the opportunity to be heard.

Governor dismisses several members of Puerto Rico Statistics Institute board

If it applies retroactively, the 25-page document states it would go over the decision of the Díaz Carrasquillo versus García Padilla case (191 DPR 97, 2004), which determined that, pursuant to Act 209 of 2003, which created the Institute of Statistics, its board members had acquired a “proprietary interest over their posts protected by the Constitution of Puerto Rico” and that of the United States.

The situation of having two boards making decisions simultaneously has created “uncertainty and instability” for the institute’s daily operations, PRSI attorneys José Conway and Mariana Hernández said in the document.

Government Reacts to lawsuit

The Secretary of Public Affairs and Public Policy, Ramón Rosario, said the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, believes the the controversy should be resolved in court.

“It’s a good thing that they went to court because that is where claims like this are solved…. Rosario said during a press conference Thursday in La Fortaleza, offering input of the government’s position. “The current board, the only one that has the right under the law to act and run the institute, is the one appointed by the governor of Puerto Rico, until a court determines otherwise.”

The Facts

On July 21, Rosselló announced in writing the dismissal of four of the seven members of the board for alleged Statistics Institute problems collecting government data and its lack of integration with other agencies. Chairman Antonio Fernós, Vice Chairwoman Ana Dávila, Marta Álvarez and Sonia Balet were dismissed under Act 3.

The governor left board Secretary Antonio Cruz in his seat, and nominated attorney Álex López and accountant Bethsié Rosa to keep theirs.

The governor also immediately nominated Planning Board President María Gordillo, and attorney and accountant Jeannelle Alemar Escabí to the board. The intention was to have five of seven members so the board did not lose its quorum.

Dr. Mario Marazzi-Santiago, executive director of the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute, during the presentation of the State Data Center portal that makes Puerto Rico data produced by the U.S. Census Bureau easier to access. (File)

Despite this, on July 24, Fernos Sagebién convened the former board members and announced they would renominate the Statistics Institute’s executive director, Mario Marazzi, for another 10-year period.

Although the governor’s intention was for Marazzi to remain in his post, according to a written statement was said in writing, his renomination was criticized by the government because it is thought to have been carried illegally.

A day later, the new board members met to designate the leadership positions in the body and at present, all the members seem to be giving orders in the institute.

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