MUNICIPAL POLITICS

Seville councilor who moved to US tries to attend session via Skype

Carmen López says local mayor refused to let her talk from Chicago via father’s cellphone

Ciudadanos councilor Carmen López has moved from a Seville town to Chicago.
Ciudadanos councilor Carmen López has moved from a Seville town to Chicago.

A Spanish councilor who moved to Chicago and tried to get her local government to pay for her plane trips home has made news again after sending her father into a council session with a cellphone and a Skype connection.

Carmen López had already received a warning from her party, Ciudadanos, after asking authorities in Castilleja de la Cuesta (Seville province) to cover the cost of her trips from the United States to attend council sessions.

López, who has since left the party but holds on to her councilor's seat, claims she made the request after local officials refused to let her participate from the US via video conference.

On Wednesday, López’s father walked into the local council with a cellphone, which he used to contact his daughter via Skype’s video chat software.

But she was unable to participate as Mayor Carmen Herrera, of the Socialist Party, ordered her father taken out of the room where the budget was being debated. Herrera claimed the man was creating a disturbance.

Mayor Carmen Herrera

López then attempted to communicate by voice.

“I told them via the cellphone that I am a councilor and to please not prevent my participation at the plenary session,” she told EL PAÍS, noting that she receives no payment for her position as a councilor.

Later, she posted an angry message on her Twitter account: “They threw us out of the plenary session, lying, and preventing me from speaking.”

The councilor also criticized the fact that she was not properly informed about the plenary session.

“I found out through my own resources and against all odds. And I’m not the first one, nor was this the first time,” said López, who moved to Chicago because of her husband’s job.

At the close of the session, Mayor Herrera said she did not want “a circus act.”

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“I hope this ends soon. Residents are embarrassed. Castilleja does not deserve this,” she said.

Herrera added that video conference participation “has no legal backing, because it is not considered in the city’s own organic regulations.” As for other municipalities that do envision the possibility, this is only “in the event of illness or maternity leave.”

Ciudadanos, which performed strongly at last Sunday’s Catalan elections, has asked López to give up her councilor’s seat, but so far she has refused, although she has now left the party.

Ciudadanos, which hopes to make a serious run for office at the general election that will take place later this year, said that a councilor’s job “is being down on the street and showing an interest in residents’ problems, something that she can hardly be expected to do if she decided to move to Chicago.”

English version by Susana Urra.