• The San Juan Daily Star

No special independent prosecutor to be appointed to investigate SJ Head Start complaint

Former San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto

By John McPhaul

Upon accepting the recommendation of the Department of Justice, the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials) decided Monday that it will not appoint a special independent prosecutor (FEI) to investigate the former mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, and two municipal officials, Myrna Hernández Serrano and Ivette Del Valle Soto.

The case originated with a complaint filed with the Justice Department by current San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo against the former mayor related to the administration of the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

As indicated in the Justice Department’s Preliminary Investigation Report, Romero Lugo stated that the gross negligence of former Mayor Cruz Soto and two other municipal officials caused the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds for the operation of the Head Start and Early Head Start centers, and that in turn caused the closure of the centers, with the consequent loss of jobs and provision of services for the residents of San Juan.

After the investigation by the Division of Public Integrity and Comptroller Affairs (DIPAC), Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández accepted the recommendation of the division, which concluded that sufficient cause does not exist to believe that Cruz Soto and the aforementioned two officials had engaged in criminal conduct. He then recommended that an FEI not be appointed.

The DIPAC reported that interviews were conducted with municipal officials and other sources. From these and other inquiries, the evidence collected shows that the defendant worked to rectify the deficiencies indicated by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The brief states that no controversy exists in that the ACF documented the finding of two deficiencies related to situations that occurred in several centers.

The DIPAC also specified that, according to the record, the corrective measures adopted by the municipality were validated and accepted by the ACF.

The PFEI stated that, from the testimonies of the people who gave sworn statements, evidence is lacking to designate an FEI, thus coinciding with the recommendation of the Secretary of Justice in this regard.

In accordance with the evaluation and analysis of the case, the PFEI ordered the shelving of the matter, as far as the criminal aspect is concerned, as stated in its Resolution of March 18.

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