Cast your mind back, if you can, to a press conference that had been hurriedly called for the morning of the first of February. In terms of the progression of Covid and of the vaccination, this can seem like eons ago, as hardly anyone had been vaccinated by then. But among those who had been was the Pollensa councillor for social welfare, Francisca Cerdà. The press conference was because she had been vaccinated. How had that come about?
At that press conference were three people - Francisca Cerdà, the mayor of Pollensa, Tomeu Cifre, and someone who wouldn’t have been recognisable to most but was the director of the town hall-run care home in Pollensa, Toni Pons - the care home where Francisca Cerdà was vaccinated. In June, Pons was dismissed. This was apparently due to so-called work incompatibility. He had another job as well, one that he says that the town hall had known about.
Last weekend, Pons gave an interview. To say that this gave opposition parties at the town hall some ammunition would be an understatement. The three parties - Junts Avançam, Alternativa per Pollença and Unidas Podemos - had previously denounced Cerdà and Cifre to the Anti-Corruption Office over what was claimed was a case of vaccination queue-jumping by Cerdà. They have now forwarded further details this office - those contained in Toni Pons’ interview.
At the end of January, there were cases of alleged queue-jumping. Yes, this may now seem like a long time ago and irrelevant in the context of the high vaccination levels achieved since then. But the vaccination was initially very slow, and so when people in the health service and a councillor in Pollensa were in the spotlight for apparent queue-jumping, there was a good deal of anger, even if the queue-jumping had been seemingly innocent (spare doses at the end of the day, for instance) or had been justified.
In Francisca Cerdà’s case, she has defended the early vaccination on the grounds that she was regularly at the care home. But the opposition have always maintained (now backed up by Pons) that she didn’t need to be there. It wasn’t as if she was a care home employee. For the Balearic health service, however, which was requiring justifications for anyone being vaccinated who wasn’t a care home resident or worker, Cerdà was to appear as care home coordinator.
This was because Pons noted that she was. He says that he basically made this up as he had to give a justification. He couldn’t put councillor, as this would not have been a justification and would have run counter to the protocol as it was at the time. The opposition say that “a municipal employee” (Pons) was urged to violate protocols in order to enable Cerdà to be vaccinated. To make matters worse, they add, she lied about having been vaccinated. That press conference was called when Cifre clearly realised that the vaccination had to be admitted, Cerdà having told the Pollensa newspaper ‘Punt Informatiu’ that she hadn’t been. That was the lie.
Toni Pons says that he is not out for revenge, although it may legitimately be asked why he didn’t come forward earlier than he has. Whatever his reason, his version of events is damning, and the opposition are playing them for all their worth.
Apart from sending additional information to the Anti-Corruption Office, they are asking the other parties that form the administration whether they would still now vote in the way that they did in March, when they did not support an opposition motion of official “reproval”. Cifre and Cerdà are both with Tots per Pollença. There are three other parties in the administration - the Partido Popular, El Pi and the Unió Mollera Pollencina.
Tomeu Cifre, for his part, has totally refuted the claims made by Toni Pons and insists that protocols were observed - Cerdà received the first dose on December 30 and the second on January 20. Cifre maintains that all was made clear at that press conference on February 1, when Pons stated that procedures had been followed correctly (but which he now says were not).
The mayor adds that Pons was dismissed for “pure breach of contract” and that if there were anything to answer for, he and Cerdà would have heard by now. The complaint was lodged with the Anti-Corruption Office eight months ago.
Even with the additional information, there are doubts as to whether the Anti-Corruption Office will take any action. Pons feels that the office hasn’t been interested but suggests that what he has now said may arouse interest. The point is, however, and the office director, Jaume Far, stated as much when there was the row about health service officials having apparently been vaccinated, this is a matter of ethics rather than possible criminality.
The ethics are indeed what matter. Whatever the rights or wrongs, whatever the following of protocols or not, there is the undeniable fact that Francisca Cerdà lied. Not one to call for resignation lightly, I felt back in February that she should have resigned for this reason, and I know there are plenty of others who feel the same. If not resignation, then Tomeu should have dismissed her.
The opposition, who have also denounced the mayor and the councillor for having had PCR tests paid for out of public funds, believe there has been abuse of power in addition to a lack of transparency and violation of protocols. If there are no further developments between now and the next council meeting, one senses that it will be a frosty encounter.