On Friday, November 11, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States approved an external investigation into Secretary General Luis Almagro’s alleged ethical misconduct in maintaining an intimate relationship with one of his subordinates, Associated Press reported.
The vote came at the request of Uruguay and Antigua and Barbuda after the OAS inspector general had commented in a memo his recommendation to hire an investigative firm to look into allegations that Almagro may have violated the OAS code of ethics.
30 OAS member countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Uruguay, voted in favor of an external investigation. Two member states, Belize and Haiti, abstained, and Grenada was absent.
Immediately after the vote, the 59-year-old Almagro himself publicly admitted to his romantic relationship with OAS employee Marián Vidaurri, a Mexican national. Almagro also underscored his continual willingness to collaborate with any investigation against him in this matter.
The OAS ethics guidelines state that staff members must not have intimate relationships with colleagues in a way that interferes “with the performance of their duties or to disadvantage others in the workplace.” It dictates that a manager must leave any supervisory role over individuals with whom they enter a relationship and must not bestow any additional benefits upon the other person.
Although Almagro confirmed his relationship with Vidaurri, he did not verify her position, nor did he disclose her status as his subordinate. He previously stated that he had never supervised her and had never participated in any employment-related decisions, such as authorizing salary increases. However, in several online bios as well as in photos with Almagro taken as recently as March this year, some of them posted on the OAS’ social media accounts and presented to media outlets, Vidaurri is described as an “adviser” or sometimes “head adviser” to the OAS secretary general.
Almagro’s romantic relationship with the junior staffer has been “an open secret” within the OAS for several years. According to a previous report by AP which first broke the news of the scandal, many of the employees of the organization felt “uncomfortable and intimidated interacting with the boss’ alleged paramour.”
Initially, OAS had decided to handle the matter internally. However, the OAS inspector general, who was in charge of the internal investigation, finally requested the Permanent Council of the OAS to allow an external firm to investigate the allegations against Almagro.
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