Hot Air Waves

The head honcho thinks The Alex and Miriam Show would be totally cool, but internal strife is boiling over at Radio and TV Marti

Kinnavy's grievance concludes with an observation that San Roman "routinely invokes the name of 'William Jefferson Clinton' in a manner which can only be intimidating to those who believe that he is truly Clinton's right-hand man 'sent to clean up this mess,' as he once stated to me."

Yvonne Soler serves as staff director of the Advisory Board for Radio Broadcasting to Cuba, a presidentially appointed body that serves as a link between the White House and the Martis. Soler wrote a formal complaint to the board asserting that San Roman has forbidden her to have direct contact with any OCB staff member -- effectively eliminating her duties.

In a letter addressed to the chief of investigations at the Office of the Inspector General and copied to several other officials, Radio Marti field research director Antonio Rivera requested an investigation of an incident of "Blackmail Attempt Against a Federal Employee" -- namely him -- by San Roman. Rivera's three-page memo recounts a meeting he had with San Roman in which his boss allegedly claimed to possess tapes of remarks critical of San Roman that Rivera made at a May advisory board meeting. San Roman, Rivera writes, threatened to use the tapes to sue him for defamation. "'And since I'm a lawyer, it won't cost me a cent to take you to court,'" Rivera quotes San Roman as having said before asserting he could kick Rivera out of the office "in a matter of hours," eliminate his department, and "hacerle dano (hurt him badly)" if he cared to. (When asked to comment about his letter, Rivera expressed dismay that New Times had obtained a copy and declined to discuss the matter.)

Five other OCB employees say they're in the process of filing grievances, a process entangled in red tape and not lightly or frequently undertaken. Most of the complaints center on San Roman's "understated abuse of power," in the words of one staffer, as well as the perception that he lacks experience in -- or has a disregard for -- the federal government's complex rules and sine qua nons and tends to bypass official channels (for example, by offering jobs to people without posting openings and soliciting applications). "But the most concerning thing is his demeanor, the constant attempt to intimidate," says TV Marti news director Cristina Sanson, who intends to lodge an official grievance in the next few days. "He has every right in the world to have his own people and to make changes and recommendations, but you have to take the advice or the opinion of the people who've been there and have a deep knowledge of what's going on."

Skirmishes within the Martis are nothing new. Peace treaties are still being drafted in the wake of the most recent one, which involved allegations by several Radio Marti research analysts that Jorge Mas Canosa, the powerful chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation and chairman of the Advisory Board for Radio Broadcasting to Cuba, actively shaped news coverage and attempted to retaliate against their department by having it eliminated. After nearly four years and more than twenty investigations of the OCB by the Office of the Inspector General, no damning findings emerged against Mas Canosa. (The department is now being eliminated.) Still, there's a lingering public perception of ruthless infighting and influence wielding, and congressional critics continue to attempt to reduce the Martis' $22 million budget.

Spokesmen at the various entities that received complaints from OCB employees say they can't comment until the matters are resolved. If the research analysts' downfall is any indication, this resolution could easily outlast Clinton's tenure -- perhaps even Castro's.

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