Washington - Washington Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González supported yesterday an investigation into allegations that public officials may have used the distribution of supplies during the emergency triggered by this month's earthquakes for personal electoral benefit.
"All that has to be investigated... When there are public funds involved they have to provide proof that they are acting properly," she said, when asked about statements by now-former Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar that the suspension of the head of Puerto Rico's Administration of the Socioeconomic Development of the Family (Adsef, Spanish acronym), Surima Quiñones, was based on the possible use of supplies to advance personal political agendas.
According to sources, politicians who support Wanda Vázquez Garced´s aspirations to run for governor, such as senator Evelyn Vázquez, may have been part of the strategy denounced by Andújar
Commissioner González herself and the mayor of Bayamón, Ramón Luis Rivera, were criticized because aid supplies to victims in the southern region had the logo of the Commissioner's office and that of the municipality.
"Neither the mayor nor I were distributing that," Commissioner González said, noting that those aid supplies were sent to the "Food Bank" and that when she realized that they included the logo with her name and position, she ordered to eliminate that.
Commissioner González said it was an initiative by the municipality of Bayamón which she joined.
The first lady of Bayamón and director of the Commissioner's district office, Narel Waleska Colón Torres, attributed the error -using official logos on the bags with aid supplies- to "volunteers".
After being removed from office, Andújar said the real reason for her ouster as Family Secretary was that she refused to reverse the suspension of Quiñones at Adsef, amid allegations of the political use of aid supplies.
Although Vázquez Garced denied that La Fortaleza had ordered Quiñones' reinstatement, Telemundo published an e-mail in which La Fortaleza´s Chief of Staff Antonio Pabón Batlle, asked Andújar to reverse the suspension.
Commissioner González, on the other hand, said that the negative effects, in Washington, of the controversy surrounding the ousters of the Housing and Family Secretaries, and the mismanagement of supplies, are undeniable.
She also defended the new restrictions imposed by the federal Housing Department (HUD) on the use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG_DR) program relief funds, which total about $20.5 billion.
González acknowledged that she was concerned about the ouster of Fernando Gil Enseñat. But, she said the appointment of Dennis González as interim Housing Secretary eased her concerns since was the deputy secretary of the Puerto Rico Housing Department, he worked with CDBG-DR funds and "he is a person who knows and has worked with the HUD notices.”
Governor Vázquez Garced justified her decision to fire Gil Enseñat on his criticism of HUD requirements, which include imposing a Federal Financial Monitor, more authority to the Board overseeing the island's public finances, complying with the reform of the property register, and a strict administrative process.
Vázquez Garced said that HUD did not directly tell her about its alleged concerns over Gil Enseñat´s expressions, but that it was “a mayor” who told her about concerns within that federal agency.
Meanwhile, Commissioner González said last Tuesday, January 21, two days after Gil Enseñat was fired, a HUD official called her to ask about the former Puerto Rico government official´s expressions.
"The governor has the power to choose her cabinet. I am not worried about the person, but the process," said González, who has not spoken with the governor at least since the Ponce warehouse scandal broke out.
As for the requirements imposed by HUD on the use of CDBG-DR funds, González said they are aimed at "more transparency.” "They are not onerous requirements," she added, agreeing with the governor's point of view.
González thinks that Vázquez Garced should not resign to La Fortaleza nor is there any reason to ask her to give up her pre-candidacy for governor.