Former Madrid regional premier Esperanza Aguirre explained on Tuesday that she decided to take up an offer to work for a Catalan headhunting agency because she found that the opportunity was “a challenge” for her, and didn’t think that it would present any type of conflict of interest with her past role as a public official.
Aguirre, 61, was offered a job with Seeliger y Conde, a Barcelona-based professional hiring agency that has offices throughout Latin America.
“It surprised me that a Catalan company thought of me for its plans to expand across Spain, Europe and Latin America,” Aguirre said. “For the first time in 37 years, I will be earning a salary in the private sector.”
Aguirre stepped down last year as regional premier after a rough political ride that often put her at odds with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whom she had tried to unseat as Popular Party (PP) leader following his defeat in the 2008 general elections. She also overcame breast cancer.
Saying she was leaving politics, late last year Aguirre returned to a civil service post she had previously held in the Industry Ministry. She still remains as president of the PP in Madrid.
Luis Conde, one of the partners at the headhunting firm, explained that he offered the job to Aguirre after meeting with her at a wedding they both attended last October. “During the past 20 years we have recruited leaders for Spanish companies. The three characteristics that these leaders have in common are their solid plans for the future, abilities to project and outline their goals, and optimism. Optimism, of course, is one of the biggest values a human being can have. People who are optimistic give 60 to 80 percent more in their jobs, and Aguirre is like this.”
But just one day after Aguirre’s new appointment was announced, another former Madrid government official, Juan José Güemes, stepped down from his post in the private sector after conflict of interest allegations surfaced involving his position with a health firm that had taken over a fat medical contract in the Spanish capital. Opposition Socialists were quick to point out that past government officials shouldn’t be allowed to take positions in the private sector that could raise ethical questions.
Trinidad Jiménez, the Socialist spokeswoman for health issues in Congress, said Tuesday that “something isn’t right” when former PP officials leave the public sector “to rush right into” attractive jobs in private industry. “What raises a lot of questions is that Aguirre will continue to be head of the Madrid PP while working in the private sector,” said Jiménez.
But some in the ruling party have stated that the Madrid PP presidency isn’t a post paid for through public funds. Aguirre clarified on Tuesday that she refused “many offers” from various companies in the past because she didn’t want any conflict-of-interest issues to arise.
“This (new job) has nothing to do with the construction industry, the real estate sector, or any other field that is connected to industries that are regulated by the government, such as the telecommunications market or energy firms,” she said.
The former education minister said that she never thought about stepping down from the PP post in Madrid because last June she was elected by 97.2 percent of party members to serve for three years. After resigning as regional premier, she was replaced by her deputy, Ignacio González.