García continued to collect his roughly $41,500 salary until 2010, when an official spotted his name on a list of employees due to receive an award — his for 20 years of service. The official, José Blas Fernández, visited the plant only to discover that no one knew where García was.
“They assumed he had been sent back to city hall,” Fernández told the Telegraph.
García, it turns out, was reading philosophy: He was especially partial to the works of Baruch Spinoza, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
García, who has become known as “the phantom official,” denies any wrongdoing. He was bullied because of his family’s politics and assigned to the water treatment plant to be put out of the way, he said, according to the BBC. Once there, he found no work.
People close to him told El Mundo that García, now 69, was afraid to report the bullying for fear that he would be fired and have trouble finding another job at his age. He was stressed enough to see a psychiatrist, they said. He did go to work sometimes, for brief stints, they added. The manager of the plant at the time, however, said he hadn’t seen García in years.
García is now in hiding, following what his lawyer described as a media “lynching,” according to the BBC.
In the end, he was fined roughly $30,300 or roughly a year’s salary after taxes, the maximum under the law. He is contesting it.