• The San Juan Daily Star

Cruz Soto tells Romero to admit he was wrong with Head Start accusations

Former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto

By The Star Staff

Former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto reacted Tuesday to the Department of Justice’s determination not to recommend the appointment of a Special Independent Prosecutor (FEI by its Spanish initials) to her and two former Head Start program officials.

“I received a letter signed by the Secretary of Justice indicating that he accepts the determination of the Division of Integrity and Affairs of the Comptroller of Justice not to recommend the appointment of an FEI for this public servant as former mayor, for Mrs. Myrna Hernández Serrano as former director or for Mrs. Yvette del Valle Soto as former president,” Cruz Soto said in a written statement. “In other words, the three former officials have been exonerated of the accusations made by the mayor.

I would ask Mr. Miguel Romero that, as he did when presenting the allegations, he make a Facebook transmission to publicize the letter signed by the Secretary of Justice. That would be asking someone who has proven not to have maturity. That would be asking for integrity and honesty from someone who is not capable of owning up.”

“As mayor, one never uses power to prosecute or accuse unjustly,” the former mayor added. “My wish is that, after almost a year of his tenure, Miguel Romero understands that the tricks of persecuting and staining reputations say very little about the respect he has for the seat that he dubiously holds.”

The Department of Justice determined Monday not to recommend the appointment of an FEI against Cruz Soto and other former San Juan officials because, the agency said, there is insufficient cause to believe that they engaged in criminal conduct or gross negligence in administering the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

“The evaluation of the test did not reflect that Yvette del Valle Soto, former president of the governing board of Head Start programs, Myrna Hernández Serrano, former director of Head Start programs, and the former mayor of San Juan had intentionally or negligently breached their duties related to the administration of the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, particularly with regard to the monitoring process, or that this would cause the loss of funds, as defined by this concept in the Puerto Rico Penal Code,” Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández said in a written statement.

On June 8, Romero Lugo, sent the Department of Justice a communication in which he alleged that Cruz Soto and the other two officials had engaged in gross negligence in administering the Head Start and Early Head Start programs. He added that as a result, the municipality lost automatic eligibility for millions of dollars in federal funds to operate the programs, leading to the closure of several centers and the firing of employees, among other things. Romero said his allegations were based on the result of a routine monitoring of the programs, carried out in 2016 by the Administration for Children and Families.

However, according to the investigation, the deficiencies pointed out in a monitoring report are not related to the administration or fiscal aspects of the programs, so there was no direct participation on the part of the former mayor or the aforementioned officials.

In addition, the investigation revealed that the reduction in federal funds allocated to the Head Start program is not directly related to the performance of the accused officials.

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