UPDATE 3-Top adviser to Puerto Rico governor resigns, 'in no way pressured'

(Updates with background, creditor comment, oversight board comment)

NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) - Elias Sanchez, Governor Ricardo Rossellós liaison to Puerto Ricos financial oversight board who has been criticized over his financial disclosures, resigned on Thursday.

Sanchez, a trusted adviser to Rosselló who was effectively the face of the Puerto Rican government on issues concerning the U.S. territory's massive debt restructuring, said in an interview that he wanted to focus on opportunities in the field of law.

Puerto Rico is in a historic economic crisis, with $72 billion in debt it cannot repay, a 45 percent poverty rate, and insolvent public pensions. Its finances are under the oversight of a federal board that has been given the task of helping the island craft and follow a blueprint for its fiscal turnaround.

As Rossellós delegate on the board, Sanchez, a former lobbyist, had become a favorite target of investors unhappy with potential cuts to debt repayment.

Specifically, Sanchez was criticized for his financial disclosure forms - a requirement of all board members. According to critics, he did not provide enough information on the forms about his sources of income and potential conflicts of interest related to his role on the board.

Espacios Abiertos, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit promoting transparency in government, said in a report this month that Sanchez's disclosures were more deficient in those areas than any of the other seven board members.

One adviser to a major Puerto Rico creditor group said many stakeholders "found it extremely concerning that his disclosures were so sparse."

"Not only does that undermine the board and Governor Rosselló's commitment to transparency, but it raises many questions when you've been in the lobbying sector," said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sanchez, who had worked as a lobbyist in Puerto Rico, did not say whether he planned to return to lobbying.

"Right now Im evaluating every alternative that I might have," in Puerto Rico and Central and South America, Sanchez said in a phone interview on Thursday morning.

Sanchez insists the decision to resign was his alone. "In no way was I pressured by anyone," he said, adding that while he may have come under attack, he is "very comfortable with everything" he did on the board to represent the best interests of the people of Puerto Rico.

In a statement issued in Spanish, Governor Rossello praised Sanchezs great professional skills.

I wish to thank (Sanchez) for his willingness to serve Puerto Rico, his commitment to our administration and, on a personal level, our respect and esteem, Rossello said.

As a non-voting member on the board, Sanchez did not have a direct role in board decisions. However, he acted as the governor's eyes, ears and voice on the board, helping him form positions on financial matters, and communicating them to the board and the public.

Jose Carrion, the chairman of the oversight board, said Sanchez "was always available, committed and dedicated to represent with determination the governors postures before the Board."

No decision has been made on a replacement for the position, which is unpaid. Sanchez was technically not a government employee.


In May, Puerto Rico filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. municipal history, sparking hard-fought litigation between the board and Puerto Ricos creditors over the fates of the islands agencies and the loans that back them.

The oversight board, created under the federal 2016 Puerto Rico rescue law dubbed PROMESA, certified a turnaround blueprint for Puerto Rico in March.

Sanchez said he had always envisioned leaving once the plan was in place.

The board and Rossellos administration have not always seen eye to eye, with the governor resisting some of the boards proposed austerity measures.

Sanchez attributed the tension to growing pains associated with a new framework.

Puerto Rico had never had something like before, he said. Were we not aligned in certain circumstances? Yes ... In the net, its been a positive experience. (Reporting by Nicholas Brown in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Daniel Bases)