- Minister says there are grounds to investigate mayor
- PSOE fail with a vote of no confidence
The soap opera that is the working life of Orihuela mayor Emilio Bascuñana, between 2007 and 2013, has opened up yet another new chapter.
Following publication in eldiario.es of a story, that brought into doubt the work that he carried out on behalf of the Department of Health from 2007 to 2013, for which he was paid in excess of euro 55,000 per annum, the Minister for Health, Ana Barceló, said that there was enough evidence for her department to open an investigation into the matter.
Bascuñana, a qualified doctor by profession, who didn’t have a fixed position during the period, is accused of drawing the salary without carrying out any work. However he insists that he did advisory and administrative duties for the Ministry which involved him effecting consultations in a number of health centres.
The conclusions of the preliminary report were unveiled on Wednesday in the Valencian Parliament by the Health Minister after a question from Compromís de Mireia Mollà, who wanted to know what stage the investigation has reached “because if it is true, Bascuñana should resign his position as the Mayor of Orihuela”.
In response Barceló explained that there is no evidence that “Dr. Emilio Bascuñana” (as she addressed the mayor) had done any work during that time, despite charging 55,000 euros a year.
She said that she “has not found any documents describing the functions, supposedly entrusted to the mayor, or the purpose, or the content of the work to which he was assigned.” Therefore, Barceló announced that the Ministry of Health will now open an information file “to assess what future action is required.”
She added that the mayor of Orihuela will now have his opportunity to explain and produce the evidence supporting the work that he carried out at a future date.
Back in Orihuela, PSOE spokesperson Carolina Gracia said that she was very disappointed by the statement made by the Minister of and immediately tabled a Motion of Censorship against the mayor.
Orihuela Compromís spokesman, Cayetano Portugués, said that he had been asking for the resignation of the mayor since the scandal first broke 6 weeks ago. “We are not going to let the PP continue to tarnish the Vega Baja with even more corruption” he said.
Meanwhile on Thursday the mayor issued a statement accusing the press of carrying out ‘a media lynching.’ He urged the Regional Deputy responsible to “streamline the investigation announced on Wednesday and resolve it as soon as possible ‘to dispel all these unjustified accusations.’
He added that he has written evidence certifying that he performed the functions entrusted to him during the period, as well as a legal report that states that “there is no irregularity, so all the allegations made in this last month are totally false.”
The mayor questioned whether the Ministry of Health “will also investigate the functional assignments of all their attached staff because, if the problem is due to an administrative error with the documentation, they should be checking it”. He said that it is the Ministry of Health which should protect the internal and personal documentation of its workers (and not the individual employees), and therefore the Department itself is ultimately responsible.
Bascuñana said that “I’m not going to resign because it means giving way to people who believe that in politics anything goes”. He added that his lawyers “are going to act with determination and forcefulness”.
The mayor insisted that this controversy “is due to an attack against him personally, against Orihuela, and against my party (Popular Party), based on lies and falsehoods, so I ask the Consellera to be responsible and objective and to carry out their investigation quickly “.
On Friday the no confidence vote was finally put to the full Orihuela council but despite promising to support such a motion if evidence was produced to implicate the mayor in the salary controversy, Ciudadanos leader Juan Ignacio López Bas was cautious, saying “I think that with just ten months to go to the next elections we cannot afford to destabilize Orihuela by changing the government at this time.”
He subsequently instructed the two other Ciudadanos councillors who make up the coalition government, Mar Ezcurra the councillor for Youth and Culture and Luisa Boné for the Coast, to vote against the motions which will now allow Bascuñana to continue in post.
Although López Bas has acknowledged that Bascuñana is in a “conflictive and worrisome situation”, he said that he will give his government partner “the benefit of the doubt”. According to the municipal leader of Cs, the mayor has assured him that he has the documents “that prove that he has worked during the period in question”.
Therefore, he said that the intention of the three Ciudadanos councillors is to wait for the “proof” to be revealed by the mayor which will invalidate the information file that has been opened by the Department of Health.