Saturday, November 16, 2019

Puerto Rico Supreme Court takes up ethics complaint against Telecom Board chairwoman

By on October 30, 2019

On right, Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board Chairwoman Sandra Torres López (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

Torres denies violating Anti-Corruption Code for allegedly requesting an employee sell governor-fundraiser tickets

SAN JUAN — The chairwoman of the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Bureau (NET by its Spanish initials), Sandra Torres López, faces an ethics complaint before the island’s Supreme Court for allegedly violating the Anti-Corruption Code by requesting that an employee sell tickets for a fundraising event during work hours.

The new scandal shaking the administration of Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced was revealed Tuesday in the Telemundo TV show “Jay y sus Rayos X,” when the former employee of the chairwoman spoke about her request in the summer of 2018 to sell some tickets for an event in benefit of now-former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.

Caribbean Business obtained Wednesday a copy of the complaint against Torres López, which was filed Oct. 18 at 2:27 p.m. by the NET chairwoman’s former employee Exel López Vélez.

“The chairwoman asked me to go to her office and once there she entrusted me with a fundraiser for the re-election campaign of then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares… Once I arrived at my house I proceeded to look at the list and it was then that I identified that the contacts were the ones regulated by the then-Telecommunications Regulatory Board,” the affidavit reads.

According to the document before the Supreme Court, Torres López handed to her employee , while in her office, a list of telecommunications companies and their contact information for the latter to sell them a $1,500 per person ticket for a June 7, 2018, event at the Los Arboles Urbanization in Montehiedra, in 416 Boulevard St.

“I proceeded to call Ms. Torres López and indicated that I could not help her with the assignment since I understood it improper to request money from entities regulated by the agency. She replied that I had a [politically appointed] position of trust, which was the reason she had brought me to work with her. The next day, the [Torres López] called me to her office and repeated that I had to collaborate because otherwise she would have to do without my services,” the sworn document adds.

The former employee said that he went to the headquarters of Claro and AT&T, among other companies regulated by NET, to deliver the tickets and that, once he delivered the tickets to the aforementioned companies, they returned them and refused to buy them.

“I proceeded to go to the office of the chairwoman and I notified her that I did not wish to continue these unofficial efforts and that both companies had declined to participate and I had also gone through a hard time with the tickets being returned. She got upset and called the president of Claro of Puerto Rico, Mr. Enrique Ortiz de Montellano, on her cellphone and told him that this was an activity of the governor and that she had to provide the tickets. Exactly the same happened with Mr. Flores from AT&T. Through contractors, she managed to sell enough tickets. But mostly they were [sold] to regulated [companies] that appear in the annex and will be part of the evidence,” the affidavit says.

In addition, the sworn statement establishes that several of NET’s contractors participated in the Rosselló fundraiser, such as Perfect Cleaning, Aireko, legal adviser Miriam Toledo, legislative affairs adviser Eduardo “Tito” Laureano and administrative services contractor Carmen Carro.

“In my understanding, the acts of the lawyer and former judge Sandra E. Torres López, of power and influence, are an intentional misuse of the prominence of her position to advance her personal interests and an attempt to gain illegitimate advantage potentially through trading in influence among other possible crimes and violations of the Code of Ethics of Lawyers,” points out the former employee.

Torres López says she never ordered the tickets sold

Torres López assured Tuesday in the same TV show that the allegations of her former employee are false and indicated that she will respond to the court about the complaint.

“It is totally false. That is a list that I have in my office that was used two days before Hurricane Maria. I am very respectful of the canons of ethics; I was a judge and I have been in practice for 40 years and it is the first time in my life that I find myself in a situation like this. This gentleman had an attendance problem and was going to be dismissed. He then committed acts that are under investigation by the Puerto Rico Police. This person was going to be fired. The allegations are completely false,” Torres López said.

Twitter: @Limarys_Suarez