Fiscal board nixes transparency group’s request for documents
By The Star Staff
The Financial Oversight and Management Board has rejected a documents request from Espacios Abiertos (Open Spaces), arguing that it is immune from actions related to Puerto Rico’s constitutional right of access to public information.
The oversight board’s move followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May that sided with the federally appointed entity in a public records dispute with a group of journalists. The justices by an 8-1 vote reversed an appeals court ruling in favor of the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo seeking documents about debt restructuring. The court’s majority found that Congress had not written anything into the board’s founding statute that “deprived the board of sovereign immunity.”
The oversight board said any right to access documents under the Puerto Rico Constitution does not apply to it.
“Moreover, the Supreme Court has determined that PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act] does not abrogate the Oversight Board’s sovereign immunity in federal district court, and therefore, the Oversight Board is immune from actions seeking to enforce TEPPRA (Transparency and Expedited Procedure for Access to Public Information Act of 2019) or Puerto Rico’s constitutional right of access to public information,” the board said.
In a letter addressed to Robert Mujica, the executive director of the oversight board, as well as each of the board’s members, Espacios Abiertos in June requested two categories of documents from the board.
The requested documents were “all spreadsheets (including, raw data and financial models), interim and final reports, and all related documentation the FOMB [the acronym for the oversight board] has generated” and which were listed in a 36-page document identifying work proposed to be performed by several consultants engaged by the Oversight Board, as well as specific data, models, and projections incorporated into certified fiscal plans, including the 2023 Commonwealth Fiscal Plan, certified on April 3, 2023,” according to the letter.
Espacios Abiertos also requested “all spreadsheets (including raw data and financial models), interim and final reports, and all related documentation generated by certain contractors hired by the FOMB and/or used by those contractors in completing their work for the FOMB.”
Espacios Abiertos said it was entitled to the information pursuant to TEPPRA and the constitutional right to access public information in the 1982 court ruling, Puerto Rico, Soto v. Srio. de Justicia.
While the oversight board denied the Espacios Abiertos request, the entity noted that it makes many documents available to the public.
“The board publishes much of its correspondence and other materials related to its official acts on its public website, including some or all information related to the subject matter of your requests,” the oversight board said. “Moreover, testimony given by the Oversight Board’s advisers for purposes of the Title III cases and related proceedings are publicly available on the case website for the Title III cases, which is maintained by Kroll Restructuring LLC.”