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Conflict Over Municipal Council Members' Stipends

By Oliver Pérez


The Stipend is a compensation that is the right of a functionary, in this case of Municipal Council members. According to the Municipal Code a Council member is entitled to a stipend for attending a paid session of the Council of which he or she is a member.

Three members of Nicoya's Municipal Council are in a dispute with the Mayor's office because their stipends have been retained for the past month, according to Mayor Marco Jimenez.

The Mayor is awaiting a determination by the Attorney General of the Republic as to whether the payment of these stipends is proper. The three Council members are Juan Luis Aguirre Vidaurre, Rodolfo Orozco Orozco and Ana Lizeth Espinoza. They all work for the Ministry of Public Education and attend sessions during working hours. The work-day sessions take place on Mondays at 2 p.m.

Rodolfo Orozco, who works in the Belen de Nosarita High School, said that in his case, there is no problem with the Law against Corruption and Illicit Enrichment which some have cited as presenting a problem with these payments. "I already have made it known to the Mayor, the Attorney General and the Comptroller General, that I always make up the time that I utilize for Council meetings. In my case, I have an agreement with the Regional Directorate of Education that I make up the time, starting earlier and leaving after the normal schedule. So the Mayor doesn't have the right to retain my stipend," claimed Orozco.

Neither the Attorney General nor the Comptroller General has announced a decision in the case. However, if the Auditor determines that this group of stipends is in conflict with the Law of Corruption and Illicit Enrichment, all the stipends received during the administration elected in May of 2010, might have to be returned. As well, Council members who were wrongly paid could lose their credentials or be subject to a disciplinary sanction.

But Mayor Marco Jimenez has decided not to pay the stipends until the Attorney General has issued a decision. "Administrative jurisprudence exists that indicates the stipends can't be paid when council members intend to hold sessions during working hours," said Jimenez.

On the other hand, Council member Ana Lizeth Espinoza, on March 7, said that when they were elected and made the declaration of possessions to the Comptroller General of the Republic, the officials knew the Council members were public employees. Espinoza added that they are open to discussion and someone should have been called them aside to let them know what was happening.

"I have an arrangement with my boss and the time that I take off to attend the sessions, I make up in the Regional Directorate of Education," Espinoza said.

A Council member receives a payment of 36,000 colones ($72) per session, while a substitute gets 18,000 colones ($36); the syndic receives 18,000 colones ($36) and the substitute syndic is given 9,000 colones ($18). Council sessions are held six times per month.


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