Rivera Guerra drops out of NPP
House Speaker Jenniffer González confirmed his exit from the statehood party, adding that Rivera Guerra is also giving up his spot in the majority caucus in the lower chamber and his position as chairman of the House Tourism Committee.
NPP Rep. Víctor Parés, who represents San Juan District 4, is taking over the tourism panel.
Rivera Guerra will also see his legislative budget cut, González said.
The island Justice Department called earlier this week for the designation of a special independent prosecutor to investigate Rivera Guerra over construction permits for his home in Aguadilla and other issues.
Under local law, the Justice Department refers cases against public officials to a panel of three former judges at the Special Independent Prosecutor’s Office in order to shield such cases from claims of partisan bias. The judges then determine whether to assign an SIP to investigate whether criminal charges are warranted.
The SIP referral adds another chapter to Rivera Guerra’s troubles.
On Monday, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled against his bid to get on the ballot for the November election.
Rivera Guerra had gone to the top court seeking to overturn an appeals court ruling that blocked him from running for re-election under the NPP logo.
The Supreme Court found no standing for his petition in decision handed down by a summer panel of three of the its justices - Mildred Pabón Charneco, Anabelle Rodríguez and Edgardo Rivera García.
An island appellate court determined last month that the Mayagüez-Aguadilla district lawmaker can’t run under the NPP logo, ruling in favor of the statehood party’s bid to keep him off the ballot.
Rivera Guerra was sanctioned by the House in January for alleged irregularities related to utility services and construction permits at his private residences. After the lower chamber voted for a reprimand and a 10-day suspension of per diem payments, Gov. Luis Fortuño, the NPP president, referred Rivera Guerra’s case to the Justice Department and the NPP governing board.
The NPP had turned to the appeals court after an Aguadilla Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Rivera Guerra’s challenge of the party governing board’s decision to not certify him to run under the party’s “palm” logo on the November ballot. The governing board move was in line with the recommendation from a party committee that looked into alleged irregularities regarding utility services and construction permits at Rivera Guerra’s residence in Aguadilla.
In March, a San Juan Superior Court judge ordered the State Elections Commission to certify Rivera Guerra’s candidacy for re-election.
Judge Isidro García Pesquera ruled that the SEC must certify Rivera Guerra’s candidacy because the lawmaker met the agency’s registration requirements. He filed his re-election bid before coming under scrutiny for the utility and permit issues.
However, the lower court said it was not making a decision on whether Rivera Guerra ultimately appears on the ballot.
The SEC quickly complied with the judge’s order, certifying that the lawmaker met the requirements to run.
That move opened the door for the NPP itself to go to court to try to block Rivera Guerra from getting on the ballot. The party did not challenge his first legal bid.