This week San Felipe experienced its own political earthquake, after the Regional Electoral Tribunal (TER) of Valparaiso hosted on August 10th the request for removal filed by the independent councilors of San Felipe, Christian Beals and Juan Carlos Sabaj, against the mayor of that commune, Patricio Freire Canto, for notable abandonment of duties.
In the 28-page request – to which El Mostrador had access – the councillors requested that “the mayor of the commune be declared to have incurred actions or omissions that have set up significant abandonment of duties and /or serious contraventions to the rules on administrative probity, so he must be removed from office and disqualed from any public office for the term of five years and be ordered to pay the costs”.
This request was received by the Regional Electoral Court of Valparaiso, which reported that it “accepted the removal request filed by Christian Beals Campos and Juan Carlos Sabaj Paublo,
Councillors San Felipe, against Mayor same municipality, Patricio Freire Canto, for having incurred
remarkable abandonment of duties, being removed from office and disqualification from holding any public office for five years.”
Freire is not the only mayor who has fallen out of favor in recent weeks and his removal adds to Karen Rojo’s recent suspension to the mayor of Antofagasta, for the eventual commission of crimes in the hiring of advice by the Municipal Corporation for Social Development, and for which the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the State Defense Council (CDE) request a penalty of seven years and one day.
With this decision, the now former communal authority was disqualinted from holding public office for a period of five years. But Freire has five days to appeal the TER’s ruling to the Tricel.
The beginning of the plot
In the injunction, Councillors Beals and Sabaj accused a series of breaches by Mayor Freire, which shaped the crime of a notable abandonment of duties.
One of these facts dates back to 2018, when the communal authority refused to comply with a decision of the City Council, by not issuing the Mayor’s decree of dismissal of the municipal administrator, Patricio González.
“This story begins on February 20, 2018, when four councillors voted to be the administrator’s dismissal (…) and the legal adviser of the Municipality at the time, says that the vote is illegal because a vote that is from the mayor is missing,” says Councilman Beals a El Mostrador.
He recounted that “they go to the Comptroller’s Office and the Comptrollership issues a pronouncement saying that the dismissal of the municipal administrator is illegal. I file an appeal for protection for the controller, go to the Court of Appeals of Valparaiso and reject it. I go to the Supreme Court and in December 2018 it reverses the Court’s ruling and says the vote is valid.”
However, he said that “unfortunately the mayor on instructions he received from his legal advisers, did not remove the administrator despite there being a Supreme Court ruling.”
After this fact, Beals came to the TER with Juan Carlos Sabaj in the middle of last year and submitted the order 1775-2019, accusing the mayor of remarkable abandonment of duties and absences from probity, taking into account other background.
Another accusation against Freire related to a tender made in 2012 for the “improvement and maintenance service of the public lighting of San Felipe commune”, which was awarded to the company Citeluz, for a monthly sum of $41,163,307 for a period of 7 years.
In the order before the TER, the councillors argued that – in the first instance – the mayor “involved a lack of supervigilance” in the execution of this process, causing damage to the municipal heritage.
He was also accused of having incurred other “irregular acts for the conclusion of the transaction contract and partial settlement of the improvement and maintenance of the public lighting service of the commune of San Felipe”.
Mayor: “I’m calm with my conscience”
Regarding the removal, Freire told the medium Radio Aconcagua that “I am so calm with my conscience, my clean hands (…) I’ve never had a power ambition, I feel like a citizen just like everyone else, who’s contributing. I lacked legal advice on some temas.”
“What follows now is a succession of charge (…) that was submitted to the Council at the beginning of the year, and of the three relacted Claudio Paredes who is the director of the Secplac. He’s the surrogate mayor for 45 days. At 45 days, if the Court ruled that he rejects the appeal, a new mayor has to be voted on, and that is done among the six councillors,” Councilman Beals concluded.