San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Center for Investigative Journalism (or CPI, for its initials in Spanish) filed a request so that the Fiscal Oversight Board be found in contempt, because they haven’t complied with Judge Jay García Gregory’s order directing them to hand over the communications between them and Puerto Rico’s government agencies.
The CPI states in its motion that the Board has unilaterally set up deadlines for them to produce documents and then failed to comply with said deadlines and that the entity has chosen to keep documents secret, without justifying why they should be kept confidential.
The documents “have been withheld over a period of time which has exceeded the 150 days that the Board initially estimated it would need to complete the productions.” This is stated in a motion filed yesterday by the attorneys of the organization, Judith Berkan and Steven Lausell of the Inter American University Law School’s Legal Clinic, where they also petition the federal Court to compel the Board to produce the remaining documents within a period not to exceed 10 days.
“Public information not only has to be available to the citizens and the press, but it has to be so at the right time. The delaying tactics that the Board has used in this case, such as refusing to hand over documents in a continuous manner, arbitrarily retaining them, and establishing deadlines that they don’t comply with, have become a pattern in this case,” said Carla Minet, director of the CPI.
Since June 2017, the CPI has been fighting judicially to obtain access to reports that are supposed to be filed regularly by the government to the Board on a weekly, monthly or tri-monthly basis, as well as documents, reports, letters, emails and any other information or material exchanged between the government of Puerto Rico and its agencies and the Board. The lawsuit to access information also included these same categories between the federal government and the Board. The CPI has also requested the financial statements of the Board’s members before they were appointed to said entity.
Some of these documents have been produced and, as a result, the CPI began publishing the series The Board’s emails, where it reports the unlimited power relationship of the U.S. government over the Board.
Judge García-Gregory’s decision in this case that opened the way to the handing over of the documents establishes that the Board is not a federal entity but is one of the government of Puerto Rico, and that lawsuits against it are to be filed in the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Board can be sued and that it does not have immunity. It also states that being under the Puerto Rican access to information constitutional right doesn’t stop the Board from complying with its responsibilities under PROMESA nor does it obstruct said law’s purposes and that the refusals to grant access to information have to be properly justified and can’t be arbitrary or capricious.
The CPI grants scholarships to investigate the Board
News reporters Ramaris Albert, Cindy Burgos and journalism student Angélica Serrano were the winners of three investigative reporting scholarships granted by the Journalism Training Institute (IFP for its initials in Spanish), an education initiative driven by the CPI. The journalists will use the documents disclosed by the Board to write in-depth reports.
The CPI is a nonprofit organization that has distinguished itself for scrutinizing the government and its public affairs, litigating in favor of transparency and in-depth, thorough coverage of relevant issues related to the fiscal, economic and political crises of Puerto Rico.