Puerto Rico governor fires, replaces chief financial officer

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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló dismissed and replaced his chief financial officer Monday, after the CFO accused members of the Puerto Rico Treasury of extortion and influence peddling.

Rosselló said he dismissed CFO Rafael Maldonado Gautier, who was also secretary of the Treasury, for failing to inform him of the offenses. The governor said he had only heard of the accusations Monday morning from an interview Maldonado Gautier had granted to a media outlet, and that he had lost confidence in the official.

Rosselló said that he was naming Christian Sobrino Vega as the new Puerto Rico CFO as well as Director of the Office of Budget and Management, a position the Maldonado Gautier had also held. The governor named Francisco Parés as the acting secretary of the Treasury. Sobrino Vega will hold the position as Director of the Office of Budget and Management on a temporary basis.

Sobrino Vega is the Executive Director of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority and the governor’s non-voting representative to the Puerto Rico Oversight Board, which is overseeing fiscal policy and the restructuring of Puerto Rico's debt.

On Monday morning WKAQ 580 AM broadcast an interview with Maldonado Gautier in which he said that when Rosselló became governor there were Treasury officials who were accessing the computer system, selling influence, and giving out false licenses. Maldonado Gautier said two were convicted. He said that he and the FBI were continuing to investigate 15 to 20 Treasury department officials.

Maldonado said that one official who he was attempting remove from the Treasury tried to extort him.

“It is an institutional mafia for many years in which this has been maintained as a business,” Maldonado Gautier said. “This is why the police have assigned bodyguards to me.”

Rosselló’s dismissal of Maldonado Gautier comes after the Puerto Rico media posted several stories last week that cast shadows on the Treasury. On Thursday the El Nuevo Día news website reported that the FBI was investigating contracts the consultant BDO Puerto Rico P.S.C. had with the Treasury and Education Departments and Health Insurance Administration.

Also on Thursday the El Vocero news website reported that the FBI was investigating other Treasury Department contracts.

El Vocero said some people had noticed that Maldonado Gautier had taken vacations in recent days making him unavailable to handle crucial budget issues. The budget must be approved by Sunday, June 30.

The Puerto Rico Senate is now considering the budget.

El Vocero quoted anonymous government officials on Thursday saying it was possible that the governor might dismiss Maldonado Gautier.

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