City of Santa Cruz Joins Case Against Mayor

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The City of Santa Cruz decided to become part of the criminal case against the canton’s mayor, María Rosa López, for receiving a salary bonus that wasn’t hers.

On February 1, the Santa Cruz adjunct prosecutor for transparency and anti-corruption issued his formal accusation of López and against former mayor Jorge Chavarría Cantillo for approving the payment.  

In legal terms, these crimes are called illegal enrichment, legislating for profit and defrauding the public treasury.

During a city council meeting, López didn’t mention the cases against the local government

Óscar Guevara, city council legal advisor, explained that the city has the right to decide if it participates or not in the process. The city could avoid participating directly by filing a written affidavit to the court.

City legal advisors must draft the document. It’s still unclear what the document will say.

Iván Ramírez, deputy mayor of Santa Cruz, said that the affidavit would seek to accuse the parties being investigated and enforce a criminal penalty against them, which would suspend them from their positions or send them to jail.  

The city must decide whether or not to file a civil suit, which would allow city hall to recover the money.

Prosecutors accuse López of apparently receiving more than ¢84 million in illegal funds  for billing the city for a bonus equivalent to 65% of her base salary, which she received in February 2011 and May 2015 when she served as deputy mayor.

Jorge Chavarría approved and ordered the payment be made on February 16, 2011.

The city has to analyze how it was affected and quantify those damages,” Ramírez said. “The civil suit would allow the city to recover the money that was paid out.”

Both documents will have to be signed by deputy mayor Jonal Santana in order to be legitimized since the case against María Rosa López prevents her from signing as a legal representative. Ramírez preferred not to sign because he had been the attorney for former mayor Chavarría.

“The second deputy mayor is required to sign by law,” the deputy mayor said. “The only exception is if he resigns, and he hasn’t resigned, so he has to take on legal representation. All he has to do is sign the documents.”

The city had filed a case against López in June 2017 for billing an illegal bonus. The case was filed in the administrative conflicts court.