Barcelona Council's Ethics Committee gives mayor Colau slap on the wrist

Mayor authorized hiring of councillor Lucía Martín's partner

2 min
Mayor Ada Colau during a municipal plenary session

BarcelonaBarcelona City Council's Ethics Committee has accused Mayor Ada Colau of doing "damage to the prestige and public image of the institution" by authorising in September 2020 the hiring of Alicia Ramos as a municipal advisor. Ramos was the partner of Housing councillor Lucia Martin and, moreover, was hired to work for the Housing department. Ciudadanos councillor María Luz Guilarte reported this appointment and the Committee has agreed with her. In the recommendations section, the Committee does not ask for Ramos's contract to be terminated –in fact, she no longer works for the City Council– but it does ask that "in the future, damage to the prestige and public image of the Barcelona City Council derived from or associated with cases of real or potential conflict of interest in the appointment of temporary positions should be avoided".

Barcelona City Council's code of ethics warns that in no case may the exercise of any position involve "incurring in a situation of conflict of interest, whether real, potential or apparent", and obliges to "refrain from participating in those matters in which there is a legal assumption of abstention or impartiality is in danger". It even clarifies that this conflict can be caused by "family interests, including those of the spouse or person with whom they live". The fact that the position was that of temporary advisor allowed the selection not to be made through a public competition, but through an appointment by the mayor. As Colau "has no family ties of any degree, or comparable personal relationship", according to the conclusions, "she is free of reproach for a possible conflict of interest in the appointment of the position of reference". Even so, "the mayor is responsible for her appointments". The document also criticises that the administrative file "does not contain any reason or document" to justify the appointment of Alicia Ramos.

The council argues that the appointment was made "following the same criteria as the rest of temporary staff from all parties" and, despite the clarity of the recommendations of the Ethics Committee, they consider that what is questioned is not so much the appointment as "a purely formal aspect", since "the CV has to appear on the file".

In the complaint, Guilarte warned that there is "an institutionalised modus operandi in the City Council" which consists of "appointing people with family or emotional relationships" and gave two more examples.