Half way through the current municipal term of office there are currently mayors and councillors, either under judicial investigation or awaiting the start of legal proceedings, for peddling influence, electoral shams or just good old fraud, in eight of the Vega Baja Municipalities.
Not belonging to just one political party the politicians in question represent groups across the whole range, the PP, the PSOE the UPyD and the Democratic Forum. At this stage no one has resigned with all of them, of course, proclaiming their innocence, denying the accusations and all charges brought against them.
The politicians named are linked to investigations that are currently active whilst, as we are all aware, there are many other outstanding cases, such as those affecting the ex-mayors of Catral, Dolores, Redován, Bigastro and Orihuela, all of whom are either going through the courts or still waiting to be brought to justice.
In Torrevieja the former PP mayor Eduardo Dolón, currently vice-president of the Diputación and General Secretary of the Province’s PP, is being investigated for his failure to correctly supervise the activities of a discotheque located in La Mata, the “Vela-Mata” case. The club was denounced by the Guardia in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for serious violations but Dolón insists that it is a mere administrative matter.
In Orihuela the PP ex councillor and current leader of Foro Demócrata, Pepa Ferrando, faces a nine-year prison sentence, requested by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, as a result of the “Fitur case.” She is accused of fraud and forgery following the issue of contracts during the period that she was President of the PP and Councillor for Tourism, responsible for the Orihuela presence at the International FITUR Tourism Fair.
The former mayor in Callosa de Segura faces three investigations, one of which revolves around insults he made to council employees as well as his defamation of the head of the Local Police in 2010. For this, if found guilty, he faces a penalty of four years in prison and 10 years of disqualification from public office. Must have been some insult!
In another case he is being investigated for fraud and deception after paying 311,000 euros to an architect, allegedly without a contract. In the third case the investigation regards the award of a contract of more than 90,000 euros to establish a Wi-Fi network in the municipality, paid to a company in which his brother is a partner.
The current mayor of San Fulgencio, Carlos Ramírez, is still waiting for a court date for an alleged crime of prevarication for which the Office of the Prosecutor is asking for a penalty of nine years of disqualification. The case revolves around the payment of more than 190,000 euros from the Council to a Sports Management Company and their management of the sports schools in the municipality. This management group was chaired by Antonio Irles, who was a PP candidate in the 2011 elections. The trial was set for April but was postponed to September.
A little further north in Albatera both the mayor, Rosario Ballester (UPyD), and her predecessor, Federico Berná (PP), are keeping the courts busy, Ballester for influence peddling, misappropriation and land management, while Berná is being investigated for paying irregular bonuses to staff members of the City Council.
Counter-claims between Benejúzar’s PP and PSOE during the 2015 elections were the start of two investigations. In the case of the Socialists, the entire municipal group, led by Miguel López, has been prosecuted for an alleged electoral crime committed during the campaign. The PP claim that they were distributing electoral propaganda outside the stipulated dates. The PP, meanwhile, is being investigated for misuse of the mail ballot delivery system which shot up by 13% over previous elections.
The socialist mayor of Los Montesinos, José Manuel Butrón, who has been in office for 25 years, is being investigated for alleged planning crimes, specifically his failure to execute the demolition order of an industrial warehouse as well as the alleged inaction of the council in dealing with files relating to houses built on greenbelt land.
There are similar greenbelt issues in Benferri where the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office has accused Mayor, Luis Vicente Mateo (PSOE), of hiding reports related to the construction of housing in a municipal green area. The prosecutor believes that there are enough incriminating factors to suggest that could have committed crimes of prevarication, influence peddling and exploitation of land management by allowing a developer to build houses on a green zone, by issuing the licenses and selling the Housing before then pushing for a change in urban planning to try to legalise the situation.
The High Court of Justice of the Valencian Community (TSJCV) ruled that all this was done to favour the private interest of the promoter.