• The Star Staff

House declines to confirm alternate member of SIP panel appointed by governor

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives declined to confirm Carlos M. Rodríguez Muñiz on Tuesday as an alternate member of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials), according to information appearing in the House’s Twitter page.

The attorney had been appointed by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to the PFEI before the start of the special session on Tuesday, a day after the panel had voted to investigate her regarding irregularities in the delivery of supplies to earthquake victims in January.

Rodríguez Muñiz served as a judge in the Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2009. He was a Superior Court judge from 1995 to 2000, a district judge from 1988 to 1995 and a municipal judge from 1983 to 1988. In addition, he served as an administrative judge in the Regulations and Permits Administration from 1982 to 1983.

He is presently working in private practice. The rejected nominee has a bachelor of arts degree with a concentration in psychology from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus and a law degree from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico Law School.

Vázquez’s opponent in the Aug. 9 primary election for the gubernatorial candidacy of the New Progressive Party (NPP), Pedro Pierluisi, said in social media that the appointment made by the governor was very inappropriate at a time when the PFEI has assigned special independent prosecutors to investigate her.

After initially not providing sufficient details, the PFEI issued a statement elaborating on the reasons it was investigating the governor in relation to irregularities in the supply of goods to victims of the January earthquake.

The PFEI said that on Jan. 16, 2020, the first analysis of the case was done by Corallys Veguilla Torres, of the Family Department’s Legal Division. Veguilla Torres recommended a summary suspension for irregularities when considering violations of law and regulations.

On Jan. 22, Ernie Cabán, a Legal Division attorney, concluded there were irregularities and deviations from Family Department procedures. On Feb. 24, Ismael Ortiz Roldán conducted a third review using photographs, videos, emails, Facebook posts and photocopies of text messages. He said there were violations of the Ethics Code and the Code of Federal Regulations that governs food distribution under The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

On July 6, then-Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quinones, a former federal prosecutor, endorsed the content of evidence collected, and forwarded it to the PFEI with the department’s recommendation.

All investigations concurred with the existence of evidence that could confirm violations of law and regulation, the recommendation said. The information and proof in all those instances were backed by interviews and documents.

In addition, the Justice Department investigation said officials retaliated against former Family Secretary Glorimar Andüjar, after she fired a subordinate for acts contrary to the law and refused to reinstate the subordinate amid pressure from La Fortaleza. Andujar fired Administration of Family Socioeconomic Development head Surima Quiñones for allowing certain politicians, including NPP Sen. Evelyn Vázquez Nieves, to participate in the disbursement of supplies for earthquake victims in what was not supposed to be a political activity.

On Monday, the PFEI issued its resolution concurring with the Justice Department recommendation.

“With the existence of the SIP panel, the test passes through a much more rigorous, objective, impartial and influence-free [process] to assess the test referred, and determine if, finally, complaints are to be filed by a Special Prosecutor before the Superior Court,” according to a statement from the PFEI.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

© The San Juan Daily Star