Gutiérrez Calls On Junta Chairman Carrión To Fire Senior Puerto Rico Control Board Leadership After Hearing In Washington
Washington, DC – Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) participated in a hearing on Tuesday in the House Natural Resources Committee where he asked questions of two senior leaders of the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and management Board, also known as the Junta de Control Fiscal of just the Junta. They were reluctant to answer his questions, to say the least. A video of the Congressman’s questions and answers at the hearing is here: https://youtu.be/-JjLk_tm4bw
Today, Rep. Gutiérrez wrote to the Chairman of the Junta José B. Carrión, III to express “outrage and dismay” at the performance of the two officials and request that they be fired immediately. Link to letter: 110817 Letter to Chair Carrion.pdf
Rep. Gutiérrez makes reference in the letter to responses from Natalie Jaresko, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Junta and Noel Zamot, the Revitalization Coordinator of the Junta who has been nominated to oversee PREPA, the electric power company.
The Congressman cites their inability – or unwillingness – to provide answers to simple questions about their compensation, expenditures by the Junta, and the impact of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico’s ability to reduce its debt. The answers were less than impressive, especially given the enormous salaries paid to these individuals and the overall $350 million annual price tag of the Junta paid for by the Puerto Rican people.
Speaking of Ms. Jaresko’s responses on questions about the Jones Act, Rep. Gutiérrez wrote:
Her answers flabbergasted me: I posed basic questions about one of the most commonly understood and highly cited issues contributing to the high cost of food and goods for Puerto Ricans and inhibiting economic development and prosperity, and your Executive Director did not know the answers to my questions. This is absolutely unacceptable. Someone in charge of directing Puerto Rico through its darkest financial days must know more than dealing with debt, paying bondholders and imposing austerity—the Executive Director must at least be equipped with knowledge fundamental to understanding the key contributors to Puerto Rico’s debt, how to decrease it and prevent its growth in the future.
In his letter, Rep. Gutiérrez goes on to recall an encounter he had with Mr. Carrión this past weekend at a restaurant in Puerto Rico where the Chairman was apparently accompanied by a security escort of four, again raising questions about how much the Junta itself is costing taxpayers in Puerto Rico, especially given the financial crisis and the hurricane emergency facing the island and its inhabitants.
The Congressman makes two specific requests for information in the letter:
“I would also like to know why such security is justified in your and your colleague’s roles.
“Finally, I request that you share with me a full reporting of the Board’s last two years of expenditures, which should include all expenses related to the operation of the board, including salaries and benefits of paid staff.”
He concludes by saying:
Between the shockingly exorbitant salaries of your staff and what appears to me to be an excessive use of a large and unnecessary protection detail, I can only say that I am appalled… Given what is being asked of the Puerto Rican people to sacrifice to pay for the island’s recovery and decades old debt for which they are in no way responsible, the very least the public should be able to expect from you, other Board members and staff is that you will act and behave in a reasonably austere and financially responsible manner.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He was born in Chicago to parents who migrated to the mainland from San Sebastián, Puerto Rico in the 1950s. He attended high school and began college in Puerto Rico and has lived there at various times in his life.
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