War over Municipal Salaries
In a signed petition from September 29, nine of 10 Roatan Municipal councilmen demanded a 75% salary increase. They wanted to increase their salary from Lps. 20,000 to Lps. 35,000 a month, just Lps. 5,000 shy of what the Roatan Mayor, Julio Galindo, is being paid.
While the letter included 24 requests, ranging from employee hiring and firing issues to municipal road-paving policies. Mayor Galindo says that the most important was really point number 12- the request for city council salary increases.
In some intense arguing Mayor Galindo swayed six of the councilmen to withdraw their support for the petition. One city council member abstained from voting, and three that continue to insist on salary increases are from Liberal Party including David Bodden and Marcus Nelson. Both of them declined to comment to Bay Islands Voice on why they presented the petition to the mayor or asked for a salary increase.
Mayor Galindo said that several of the Roatan Corporation members businesses owe unpaid taxes and fees to Roatan Municipality and it would be inappropriate to raise salaries of the councilmen at time of hardship. ” ‘Never send a hungry man to the government office’ once told me a good friend from Flowers Bay” said Mayor Galindo.
Only four years ago the Roatan Municipality voted to double their salaries from Lps. 10,000 to Lps. 20,000. In contrast, the Santos Guardiola Municipal councilmen met in October to vote for a temporary, six month salary decrease. They will now receive Lps. 7,000 a month, down from Lps. 15,000. The Mayor’s salary was cut from Lps. 40,000 to Lps. 30,000 and vice-mayor receives Lps. 15,000 down from 25,000 Lps.”I am glad that the [Santos Guardiola] corporation recognized the reality and economic suffering of the community,” said about the salary cuts Shawn Hyde, Bay Islands Governor.
Within days of the petition and coinciding with a dispute over taxi rates required to be displayed in all Roatan taxis Roatan Police became preoccupied with threats and possible risk to safety of Mayor Galindo. Roatan preventive police has assigned him with an around the clock escort. According to Mayor Galindo, the threats are not precise enough to attribute to anyone in particular, but “In Honduras there is the reality that if you don’t like someone’s policies you can have them taken out.” A municipal police presence has been increased at the Municipality in Coxen Hole and a COBRA police officers with automatic machine guns accompany Mayor Galindo anywhere outside his home.
According to Mayor Galindo the 2010 Municipal budget is close to being confirmed by corporation members and should end up around Lps. 101 million, or $5.3 million. “I came to a corporation that was in debt and broke,” says Mayor Galindo. “Times are tough and we might only end up collecting Lps. 70 million this year.” [/private]