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Before Torruella, Leval, *fn1 and Thompson, Circuit Judges.


As Ricardo Rios tells it, his professional life as a purchasing officer for the municipality of San Juan became a nightmare when Jorge Santini became San Juan’s mayor in 2001. Rios is an ardent supporter of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP). Santini belongs to a rival political party, the New Progressive Party (NPP). So does Zenaida Diaz, Rios’s one-time supervisor. Santini, Diaz, and other NPP operatives there pursued a purely political vendetta against him, Rios says, doing things like diminishing his responsibilities, paying him less than similarly situated colleagues, taunting him about his colon cancer, and menacing him with strange comments and gestures – e.g., during a May 2006 political rally Santini screamed at Rios, “You are alone and I am going to cut your head off,” and then ran a finger across his throat, which led Rios to file a complaint with the police. Building to a crescendo, Rios contends that NPP-clique members falsely accused him of disciplinary infractions as a trumped-up excuse to fire him in July 2006 for his political leanings and for his speaking out on matters of public concern (e.g., his telling others about Santini’s sub-par job performance and the frightening encounter at the May 2006 rally) – making sure, of course, to rig the pre-termination hearing to reach a predetermined conclusion.*fn2

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