SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — After a warrant was issued last week for the arrest of LUMA CEO Wayne Stensby, the energy company finally gave Puerto Rican legislators documents containing information about employee salaries and communications between Stensby and politicians. Among the documents were invoices showing that Stensby earns $1.1 million a year.
“Nobody is above the law. NOBODY,” wrote Judge Anthony Cuevas Ramos in the warrant issued early Wednesday morning for Stensby, who was charged with contempt of court. The judge also wrote that LUMA Energy “had at minimum 233 days or 5,592 hours to have copied all the information to the digital format of their choice.”
After the warrant was issued, LUMA said that they had submitted all the documents the court had originally requested.
Wednesday afternoon, Judge Cuevas Ramos held an emergency hearing with LUMA Energy lawyers and Stensby’s defense attorney, where he declared the warrant temporarily suspended until legislators could look over all the documents they had been given to see if they met the requirements laid out by the original court order.
“Today we fully complied with the court and we respect the court,” Stensby told reporters as he left his attorney’s office, where he had reportedly been hiding since 3 p.m. while the warrant was still in effect.
Stensby’s defense attorney’s emergency hearing with Judge Cuevas Ramos is said to have cost $75,000. Per LUMA Energy’s contract, the Puerto Rico government is liable to pay for any and all “lawsuits, litigations, losses, fines, penalties, costs, and expenses … incurred in connection with the performance of the O&M Services.”
Before the documents had been verified, the president of the Economic Development and Energy Commission, Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz (PPD-Hato Rey), said that LUMA had reported $17 million in costs to pay for lobbyists in the Puerto Rican legislature. But Speaker of the House Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez (PPD-Dorado) indicated that no such lobbyists had been registered with the legislature.
Over the weekend, legislators went over the hundreds of documents LUMA had given them on an encrypted drive and determined that LUMA had met all of their demands. Judge Cuevas Ramos then nullified the arrest warrant on Monday afternoon.
“The majority of LUMA’s executives live in the most expensive areas of Guaynabo and San Juan,” said Rep. Torres Cruz. He also revealed that only one of the documents they received would remain confidential, since it contains information about Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA) infrastructure. The PPD representative signaled that the legislature would gradually release the documents to the public as they went over them.
Among the documents revealed to the public are charts showing the salaries for LUMA’s top six executives, totaling a combined $3.5 million. CEO Stensby’s $1.1 million salary is more than 50 times the median household income of Puerto Rico, at $20,539 according to a 2019 Census estimate.
LUMA quickly came to the defense of their top executives who “honorably live in Puerto Rico,” issuing a statement claiming their executives’ pay was “at or near the bottom of what comparable U.S.-based public energy companies pay and compensate their senior executive leaders.”
At a press conference on the same day Stensby’s arrest warrant was issued, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said that LUMA executives’ pay “is not even relevant.” He also claimed that canceling the contract was out of the question regardless of what the House of Representatives investigation found.
Gov. Pierluisi insists that just because an arrest warrant has been issued for LUMA CEO Wayne Stensby, it doesn’t mean that the PR gov’t should cancel its contract with LUMA. He also says that Stensby’s and executives pay “is not even relevant.”https://t.co/8y3OoM7EmV
— Carlos™️ (@Vaquero2XL) November 10, 2021
When some Puerto Ricans were originally urging the government to privatize PREPA, one of their key arguments was that PREPA executives were earning exorbitant salaries. In 2018, the newly appointed PREPA CEO, Rafael Díaz-Granados, was immediately forced to resign due to public outcry over his $750,000 salary—more than a quarter-million less than Stensby’s current salary.
Stensby’s salary doesn’t sit well with most Puerto Ricans, in part due to the rising cost of electricity in the archipelago, while Puerto Ricans have experienced more power outages than before. Anti-LUMA protests have been an almost weekly feature on the island, urging the government to cancel the contract.
Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco is a freelance journalist, mostly focused on civil unrest, extremism, and political corruption. Twitter: @Vaquero2XL