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Prosecutor’s Office Investigates Five Mayors in Guanacaste for Alleged Crimes

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The mayors of Nicoya, Santa Cruz, Liberia, and Nandayure are under investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office after being accused of crimes such as illicit gain, abuse of authority, influence peddling, and even sexual abuse.

 

The cases are still in the investigatory stage in which evidence that will be presented in court is collected and analyzed. According to the facts, the judge could shelve the case or, on the contrary, send it to trial and end up with a possible sentence.

 

The Voice of Guanacaste gathered information on each case and asked each mayor for his or her version. Marco Antonio Jiménez, Nicoya’s currently suspended mayor, was the only one who did not answer multiple calls to his cell phone.

 

 

 

 

Mayor of Santa Cruz

Name: Francisca María López

Party: Liberación Nacional

Charges: Two charges, both under investigation.

 

1. Alleged crime of embezzlement and influence peddling. She is investigated for allegedly:

  • Giving housing vouchers without authorization and using municipal spaces, computer equipment, and telephone lines to do so.

 

What does López say?

After the earthquake in 2012, the National Emergency Commission authorized municipalities to make repairs to homes, but not rebuilding the house or making a new one. That was when I decided that, from the municipality, we were going to support a family whose house was a total loss. I couldn’t imagine that family going to San José to do all the paperwork. So I helped them out. There was no influence peddling.”

 

2. Alleged crime of abuse of authority. She is investigated for:

  • Apparently, at López’s orders, municipal workers went to Hato Viejo de Santa Cruz to work on expanding a highway and they knocked down a fence that separated the street from the victims’ house.


What does López say?

There is a situation where some elderly folks moved the fence towards the street and a neighbor accused them. The folks came to my office and asked Conapam to help them. Conapam didn’t answer that the municipality applied the law as it should and so due process was begun. It took nine months.”

 

 

Mayor of Nandayure

Name: Giovanni Jiménez Gómez

Party: Nueva Generación

Charges: One charge in the preparatory phase.

 

3. Alleged crimes of influence peddling and embezzlement. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Opening a bid process to directly hire a garbage-collection company, in which he favored the company Aurora de Costa Rica S.A. in September, 2016.
  • Sending a crew of four workers, using public resources, to clean a well-known private bar in the area in February, 2017.
  • Awarding a contract to build the multipurpose hall in San Pablo de Nandayure to the company Inversiones CKM de Frailes S.A. to which, allegedly, payment was sent even though the project was not received because it was not finished.

 

What does Jiménez say?

By recommendation of the municipal lawyer, I cannot make any comments, because this could hinder the investigation that is underway.”

 

 

 

Mayor of La Cruz

Name: Junnier Alberto Salazar Tobal

Party: Unidad Social Cristiana

Charges: Five charges, all in the preparatory phase.

 

1. Alleged crime of misappropriation of funds. He is under investigation for:

  • Moving more than ¢31 million from one program to another to hire two new judicial advisers.
  • Ordering payment of services, apparently, without having money to that effect in the budget.

 

What does Salazar say?

“I made my first budgetary modification to be able to incorporate trusted advisers and give the necessary resources to their departments so they can do their jobs. [The modification] was approved three votes in favor to two against, so it didn’t have the minimum number of votes and it was repealed by the Municipal Council. There was never any misappropriation of funds, nor was there any affect to the municipal funds.

 

2. Alleged crime of disobedience and abuse of authority. He is under investigation for:

 

  • Allegedly using a municipal vehicle to travel to Cuajiniquil for a political activity on September 9, 2016.
  • Using a municipal car to take his daughter to school and go to bars and motels in the middle of the night in December, 2016.
  • Closing municipal offices from December 26-30 without the Municipal Council’s approval.

 

What does Salazar say?

“I have never used the vehicle for activities that are not necessary for my functions. You can see the bad intentions and how all the time they want to sully my name.”

 

3. Alleged infraction of the Mining Code in illegal use of mineral material. He is under investigation for:

  • Ordering the repair of roads with material from the El Gallo quarry without having the required permits.

 

What does Salazar say?

“On January 3, 2017, the National Emergency Commission issued decree through which the use of materials from El Gallo, in La Cruz, Guanacaste, was approved to attend to the initial phase of emergencies due to the damages caused by Hurricane Otto. I have never illegally extracted materials.”

 

4. Alleged crime of breach of duties. He is under investigation for:

  • Hiring a legal adviser without the Municipal Council’s approval. The worker began working in January, 2017, in a position of trust.

 

What does Salazar say?

“Towards the end of 2016 I vetoed the agreement that sought to name a legal advisor again, so to get revenge he made this complaint against me, making up that I made this contract with my current adviser, with an older date, this being totally false.”

 

5. Alleged crime of deprivation of liberty without profit. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Closing the doors and impeding some workers from leaving the municipality’s session hall for 10 minutes. Even though the session had been suspended for administrative reasons, the mayor got mad and closed the doors. This happened in December, 2016.

 

What does Salazar say?

“I never closed the doors. The people who know me know that I would not be capable of that.”

 

6. Alleged crime of malfeasance. Allegedly, the mayor sent out an administrative resolution that could be improper, and this led to the unjustified firing of a municipal worker.

 

What does Salazar say?

“I don’t know anything about that. However, I will proceed to request a copy of the complaint.”

 

 

Mayor of Liberia

Name: Julio Alexander Viales Padilla

Party: Liberación Nacional

Charges: One charge in the investigatory stage.

 

1. Alleged crime of influence peddling. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Promoting the renting of a building where the municipal archive would be located, next to Edgardo Baltodano stadium, that belongs to a friend of his. According to the complaint, the building does not fulfill the technical requirements nor the location that the zoning plan allows. In this case, this past July 3 there was a raid to find evidence.

 

What does Viales say?

“I can’t say much because that could cause the process to go forward without the necessary impartiality. I have already seen the file, and the only thing that wasn’t done in the hiring was pick up the report from the head of IT. The Municipal Council orders the renting, the head of the financial department executes it, and the head of the records office makes the report and technical study of all the buildings that the municipality has, and the muni’s engineer endorses it. So I don’t intervene at any time.”

 

 

Mayor of Nicoya

Name: Marco Antonio Jiménez Núñez

Party: Liberación Nacional

Charges: In the middle of June he was suspended for three months as a preventive measure after an investigation.

 

1. Alleged crime of embezzlement. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Awarding spots in the 2009 civic festivals without its respective auction. This favored the then-mayor Gutierrez Rosales. At that time, Jiménez was president of the Commission of Civic Festivals.

 

2. Alleged crime of influence against public funds and legal fraud. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Prioritizing a concession of a 40-hectare property in the maritime terrestrial zone on Barrigona beach in Samara that belonged to a company he was a partner in.
  • Recommending that the Nicoya Municipal Council, through the Procurement department, purchase a property that belonged to the uncle of the municipality’s legal adviser, Mora Benavides, to locate a new cemetery there.

 

3. Crime of sexual abuse. He is under investigation for allegedly:

  • Sexually abusing a minor in 2016 in the municipality’s grounds. Although the victims’ names are not public, the Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that they were municipal employees.

 

What does Jiménez say?

In spite of multiple calls to his cell phone and messages left, there was no response.

 

 

 

Andrea Rodríguez and Wilberth Villalobos also contributed to this report.

 
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