PP deputy stages own sacking to collect unemployment benefit for a month

Former mayor of Celanova Antonio Mouriño tried to sue to get the money paid

The former mayor of Celanova and a regional deputy for the Popular Party (PP), Antonio Mouriño (r).
The former mayor of Celanova and a regional deputy for the Popular Party (PP), Antonio Mouriño (r).Xoan Crespo

The former mayor of Celanova and a regional deputy for the Popular Party (PP), Antonio Mouriño, has unsuccessfully sued the State Employment Service (SEPE) to receive a month of unemployment benefit that it refused him. The jobless month in question was the one he spent between his voluntary resignation as mayor of Celanova (September 15, 2012) and his occupation of the regional parliamentary seat (October 31, 2012), which he now holds for the Galician PP.

Mouriño simulated his dismissal by means of an employer’s dismissal certificate signed by the deputy mayor, but he lost the suit. The judge considers that Mouriño “voluntarily resigned the office of mayor, having decided of his own volition to run for a seat in the regional parliament,” and not because he was fired.

Mouriño, who was one of the highest-paid mayors in Galicia (63,000 euros, plus 7,900 in expenses and car mileage) would have received only 1,080 euros in unemployment insurance if his ruse had worked. But this was not his objective. His intention, he told this newspaper himself, was to plug himself into the unemployment system until his retirement without need of working, in the case his party declined to include him on its slate in the next elections. “If I don’t make it into the next legislature I would have to work a couple of months to get unemployment insurance until I retire,” he explained.

In his attempt to obtain the subsidy Mouriño first went to the SEPE with an employer’s certificate of dismissal; even though the employer, the municipality of Celanova, which he had headed for almost two decades, had not fired him. There was no motion of no-confidence, and no one ousted him; he merely resigned as mayor to run for the seat in the regional parliament, the two posts being incompatible. He points out that he did not sign the certificate himself: “Of course not! My deputy, Pilar Regueiro, signed it.”

Mouriño’s desire was for unemployment insurance to pave his road to a gilded retirement

Celanova is a town of 5,000 near the city of Ourense. In 1991 Mouriño was an office worker for a small local company when José Luis Baltar (the longtime political boss of the PP in the Ourense area, now facing corruption charges) approached him with a view to his representing the party in the municipal elections. Since then he has been one of the pillars of “Baltarism,” and has accumulated considerable assets.

But Mouriño’s desire was for unemployment insurance to pave his road to a gilded retirement. When the unemployment office refused on the grounds that his dismissal was invalid, Mouriño took it to court, where the judge has now ruled against him. He will not appeal the ruling. “I will not go on about it, although all I want is justice,” he said.

Mouriño’s services to Baltarism were generously compensated by the clan’s founder. During the two decades and more that José Luis Baltar’s word was law in the town council of Ourense, his man in Celanova held numerous posts. The spokesman for the PSOE in the Celanova, Ignacio Gómez, says that between his salary as mayor, his expense account and what he received for sitting on council commissions — “about 12,000 euros a year” — Mouriño “was making more money than the regional premier.”

The PP on Thursday came out in support of Mouriño. Alfonso Rueda, the party secretary general in Galicia, said he thought Mouriño’s reasoning was “sound.” The regional parliamentary group’s spokeswoman, Cristina Romero, said it was a “personal matter. He has not committed a crime as he didn’t receive the benefits. The fact that his conduct, at a time when politicians are under such scrutiny, has raised hackles is another matter.”

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