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P.R. Institute of Statistics seeks injunction against board appointments

The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics is seeking an injunction and declaratory judgment from the San Juan Superior Court challenging the validity of a number of board appointments Gov. Ricardo Rosselló made in late November 2018.

The appointments casts doubt on the Institute’s independent criteria and the knowledge and expertise required for Board members to exercise their duties in accordance with the Institute’s law, it stated.

The San Juan Superior Court has set a hearing date of Jan. 31 to review the petition.

Specifically, the Institute claims the Law, in its Article 7, states that the Institute’s Board of Directors is composed of “six people of recognized personal and professional integrity, objectivity and competence in any of the fields of statistics, economics and planning, as well as a government official.”

In late November 2018, the governor appointed a second government official to the Board of Directors — Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy. However, in July 2017 the governor had appointed Alex López-Echegaray as a board member.

Because López-Echegaray served as vice president of the Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Corporation, known as WIPR, he occupied the only chair intended for a public official in the Institute’s Board of Directors. During the same period (2017) López-Echegaray also held a seat on the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music.

The appeal also alleges that López-Echegaray lacks authority as a Board member, after he resigned from the WIPR and Conservatory boards in December 2018. The Institute’s law states there can be only one government official on its board, the agency noted.

The lawsuit also argues that the governor’s appointment of Harry Santiago-Perez late last year is null because he lacks competence in the fields of statistics, economics and planning.

Santiago-Pérez has a degree in business administration with a major in accounting and finance and a Master’s degree in business administration, majoring in accounting.

“This preparation does not meet the criteria established by the law. The Institute’s claim asks the Court to order the defendants to cease and desist from acting as members of the Board as they have no authority to do so,” the Institute stated.

“When approving the Institute of Statistics Law, it aspired to create an organization with the highest qualifications of academic excellence. This is essential to enable the Board to carry out its duties and the Institute to be effective in its mission,” said Orville M. Disdier-Flores, deputy director of the Institute.

Disdier-Flores, who had served as acting executive director also confirmed that Mario Marazzi-Santiago resumed his duties as the Institute’s executive director, after taking a temporary leave to handle personal matters.

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