Saturday, April 28, 2012

The politics of the town

The former mayor, Raúl Valerio Medina, the treasurer,  Mari Carmen Alonso  and the secretary Antonio Sáseta are accused of crimes such as embezzlement of public funds, subsidy fraud, fraud and extortion and falsification of documents. The judge in Orihuela has now decided that the claims made against them are admissible. 

This case relates to work on Avenida Apatel which was funded by government money under Plan E. The company, Pastor Median completed the work but were only paid 70% of the money owed to them. It seems that the rest of the grant was diverted to pay for other things. In these circumstances, the government would require the full amount of the grant to be repaid to them.

The court has also set June 13th as the date for the trial of José Joaquín Moya in relation to the case of ‘La Pedrera’. Also implicated in this one are Mari Carmen Grau,  María Jesús Torres, and the municipal secretary, Antonio Sáseta.

pedre2This case relates to the sale of land to the company Idearco who paid the council 2m Euros to build a hotel, apartments, a spa, golf course, exhibition halls, a restaurant etc at the top of our road. The plan was not approved by the regional government and so had to be scrapped.  Even if the plan had been passed, the complex would not have been completed because Idearco ran out of money several years later. 

If found guilty of the charges against him, the former mayor faces a ban from public office of up to 9 years and the others 8 years. In a sense, this is all academic because Moya resigned as mayor and from his party anyway. You do see him around the town from time to time but these days most people seem to distance themselves from him.

In my opinion, it would have been better if the socialists had lost the 2007 election. However, that was never going to happen because over the many years of his tenure as mayor, Moya had built up enough votes to see him and his party elected time after time. People in the town either worked for the council or members of their families did. It is also claimed that 180 houses in the town did not pay council tax in return for their votes. My understanding is that the socialists had a stranglehold on the town’s voting population.

At the 2007 election, Aurelio Murcia became spokesperson of the opposition party and the socialists faced a serious challenge to their position. It was he, José Antonio Ricart before him and the PP party brought cases against the socialist mayor and members of his party. In council meeting after council meeting, Murcia challenged Moya and then Medina who followed him. It was only then that the level of corruption became clear to people and they felt confident to vote for the opposition.

At the next election, the PP party dropped Aurelio Murcia because they felt he had too many enemies in the town. They thought they would stand a better chance of gaining power if they had someone more acceptable as their leader and chose Charo Bañuls. Murcia went on to form his own Liberal Central party and gained two seats on the council. In a coalition with the PP, that was enough to unseat the socialists.

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