Referral of Guaynabo mayor to Special Prosecutor’s Office reveals fight for position
SAN JUAN – After Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez referred Guaynabo Mayor Héctor O’Neill to the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor’s Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials), disagreement has arisen between New Progressive Party (NPP) legislators Antonio “Tony” Soto and Carmelo Ríos over the mayor’s immediate future.
While Rep. Soto said that O’Neill should resign following the Justice Department’s referral, Sen. Ríos insisted the mayor should be given room to decide on his future as a municipal official.
Ríos, who, like Soto, is mentioned as a possible successor to O’Neill, said that “it is now that the process begins where the presumption of innocence asserts itself, when the right to face the test and if there is some accusation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Soto said O’Neill should resign.
“It is time for the mayor of Guaynabo to resign and to provide all citizens with stability, to eliminate all uncertainty in the municipality,” the former president of the Guaynabo Municipal Assembly said.
The representative added that he had given O’Neill time to “reflect on his position, thinking about the people’s well-being.”
The Justice secretary recommended that a special independent prosecutor be assigned to O’Neill, who, according to the Justice Department’s investigation, could have committed 20 law violations against two victims. The Justice secretary said O’Neill made a transactional agreement with a woman involved, a municipal police officer who made the sexual harassment suit against the mayor public. The other victim, a woman whose identity wasn’t revealed, resides abroad, but “agreed to cooperate.”
The mayor allegedly violated Penal Code, Act 54 of Domestic Violence, and the Government Ethics Law.
The Justice secretary said the referral included that the Domestic Violence Act could have been violated for psychological or emotional abuse against a person with whom there was a consensual relationship and mistreatment by restricting freedom and aggression against a person with whom there was a consensual relationship
It was also found that there is “sufficient cause for violations of Articles 252 and 281 of the Penal Code,” related to the illicit use of public services and for persuading witnesses to not appear.
Vázquez added that he possibly incurred in four ethics violations related to officials’ duties and illegally benefiting from them.
She added that the mayor has been notified via letter of his referral to the PFEI, which now has 90 days to determine if charges will be filed.