Faced with accusations that the process was arbitrary, six government employees are requesting official information on how the selection of the positions declared non-essential that will benefit from an incentivized retirement program for public servants was carried out through the Law 80 of 2020.
Through a special appeal for access to public information submitted to the Court of First Instance of San Juan, public employees from five agencies demand from the government precise documents of the process that followed, hand in hand with the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF), to declare 1,146 government positions as non-essential.
The officials made the request for information through the lawyer John Muddwho, when approached by The new day, He directed all questions to the document presented.
In the 18-page appeal, government employees attempt to seek information after initially, in their agencies, their positions were declared non-essential but, subsequently, they were informed otherwise and were excluded from the benefit of the statute, which would have allowed to retire next March.
The director of the OGP, Juan Carlos Blancorejected that arbitrariness had been involved in the selection of the positions.
“No. The specific answer to that is no. “This has been a process that has been informed, that runs through the agencies,” she stated.
“There was no employee selection process here. What there was here was a process to determine that certain positions were essential or non-essential. This is a very important distinction, which perhaps for people is not obvious or even pleasant, but this was not an evaluation of people. This was an evaluation about the position,” she added.
Blanco recalled that each government agency worked on lists of non-essential employees, in stages, from 2020 until the final selection was made. As an example, he mentioned that in the DRNA a group of security guards was initially chosen and then discarded, because they are essential positions.
He also recalled that “at one time the municipalities were included. That was eliminated by the Board, they did not allow it to be included in the stipulation.”
Given the possibility of a lawsuit against the government, the director of the OGP challenged them to “prove” that the process was arbitrary.
“We have acted accordingly. It’s all there. We submit to all the scrutiny that is necessary, (the process) has been done in front of the court, because it has been as part of a stipulation, so I trust the work that our team, our government, has done. I trust in the participation of the Board in all of this. Anyone can allege, but if someone says that there was an irregularity, he then has the responsibility to prove it,” stated Blanco.
However, the employees, according to the appeal, have not received the requested information and were mostly told that “the lack of specificity also does not allow the required documents to be identified so that it can be examined whether they are genuinely public.” .
Before requesting the background information from the government, the employees began to formally inquire in their respective agencies about the processes and criteria established for choosing non-essential positions, according to documents examined by The new day.
Then, on October 30 of last year, 13 BDE employees sent a letter to the executive director of the Board, Robert Mujicain which they informed him that his positions were declared non-essential on July 22, 2022. Subsequently, on October 6, 2023, the president of the bank, Luis Germanyinformed them that the Board “did not accept the list of essential positions submitted and certified by the BDE.”
The employees also requested in writing to the director of the Retirement Board, Luis Collazo, to explain the change in the selection of positions, but the letter was referred to the BDE. The communication was copied to the judge Laura Taylor Swainin charge of the bankruptcy case of the government of Puerto Rico in the Federal Court under Title III of the Promesa law.
The Law of the Incentivized Retirement Program and Justice for Our Public Servants (Law 80 of 2020) It was declared null and void in May 2022 by the Federal Court and only some of its clauses will be used to enable the retirement of the 1,146 officials.
By declaring the statute null and void, the Board argued, at that time, that the legislation “substantially increased the costs” of the government’s depleted retirement systems. “without there being any solution on how to pay them.”
Therefore, the statute will be used only this time and each government agency had to choose the positions that it would declare as non-essential to give way to the incentivized retirement using only two parameters: that the position occupied by the official will not be filled again, so it is permanently eliminated and that, with this, the services provided to citizens are not affected, as Collazo explained to this medium.
Collazo has said that There are no more opportunities for other public employees to take advantage of this retirement. Starting April 15, 2024, the government will pay employees covered by Law 80 a pension equivalent to 50% of their salary. They will not receive an additional incentive and the beneficiaries did not have to meet a minimum number of years of service or age to qualify for the program.
Blanco highlighted that now the government is concentrating on polishing an “oversight mechanism”, which will fall on the OGP, so that what stipulates Law 80 of 2020 is complied with, which is to achieve savings in the government because these are positions that They cannot be refilled.
“We are fine-tuning the final details. We must certify annually that positions that were eliminated under the provision of Law 80 have not been created or filled again.“, held.
In recent days, not only BDE employees, but others from agencies such as the Health and Addiction Services Administration (Assmca), the Public Buildings Authority and the Department of Public Safety (DSP), received a direct response from the JSF. The entity in charge of the island’s finances made it clear to them that it was not the Board that selected the non-essential positions, contrary to what the public employees who informed them in their respective agencies indicated.
The Board also clarified that “a non-essential position is one that does not need replacement and, therefore, can be eliminated without affecting the continuity of the services provided by the relevant authorities, agency or public corporation.”
“With these parameters in mind, the government and the various public agencies and corporations were responsible for determining which positions were essential and which non-essential positions could be eliminated,” the Board indicated in each of the letters.
“Determining whether a position was considered essential or non-essential was the responsibility of the person who appointed it, the authority of each participating entity, in accordance with the appropriate criteria that responded to the need of each entity. To be clear, the Oversight Board was not responsible for such determination,” the Board stated in the letters signed by Mujica and copied to the governor. Pedro Pierluisi and the legislative presidents, Rafael “Tatito” Hernandez and Jose Luis Dalmauamong other officials.
The new day requested the DSP and the DRNA to specify what criteria they used to select non-essential positions and how many people, in each agency, were able to benefit from Law 80 of 2020.
The DRNA reported, in writing, that “the parameters were determined by the Retirement Board and the Board” and that some 33 positions were selected to benefit from Law 80 of 2020. In the DSP, on the other hand, they indicated that in each negotiation there was “an analysis carried out by the supervisors of the areas, based on the tasks, responsibilities and ensuring that the administrative and operational services were not affected, determining those that were essential and those that were not.” “They were essential.” In the DSP, 21 employees were selected, it was indicated in writing.