The Supreme Court has ordered the unprecedented dismissal of the mayor of Paraíso, Tabasco, and all but two municipal councilors for failing to comply with a court order to pay 23 former employees more than 95 million pesos (US $5.05 million).
In a plenary session yesterday, judges also unanimously ordered that Mayor Bernardo Barrada Ruiz and 10 councilors as well as officials from the current and previous local administrations, including the former mayor, appear before a federal judge in relation to the matter.
The case dates back to 2006 when an amparo, or injunction, was granted by a Tabasco court ordering the payment of 40 million pesos to 23 municipal workers who were fired from their jobs.
The employees argued that they were unfairly dismissed and have continued to wage a legal battle for more than a decade.
The amount owed to the ex-employees rose to the current figure of 95.8 million pesos after the payments were updated to October 12, 2017. The amount due to each worker ranges between one million and 13 million pesos.
Since the injunction was first handed down, the court that made the original ruling and the Supreme Court have issued at least 50 payment requests to the council, which ignored them.
After the Paraíso council erroneously reported on January 10 that it had met its requirements in relation to the amparo, a Tabasco judge referred the matter to the Supreme Court.
Mexico’s highest court subsequently found that the council’s supposed compliance in fact only referred to 10,000-peso payments it had made to the ex-workers, a small fraction of the full amount it was obliged to pay them.
Supreme Court justice José Ramón Cossío said the payments made so far only represented 1.8% of the total owed.
“. . . These partial payments . . . are insignificant acts and of little relevance to the compliance of the terms of the amparo,” he said.
But Paraíso’s financial situation will make it difficult to comply.
The municipality has debts of more than 400 million pesos and budgeted income for this year of just over 405 million pesos. The council’s director of social communication said that paying the full amount it owed was therefore impossible.
“If we covered the total amount of the debts, the municipality would be left without a single peso . . .” Ernesto Sanabria said.
If found guilty of non-compliance with the amparo, the mayor and his predecessor, councilors and other officials implicated in the case could face prison terms of up to 10 years as well as disqualification from holding public office.
The Supreme Court will also ask the state Congress to appoint a new council in the Gulf coast town.
Mayor Barrada Ruiz held office for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) while his predecessor, Jorge Alberto Carrillo, represented the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).