Lawsuit Filed Calling for Department of Treasury to Release Documents Concerning Members of the Federal Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, [email protected] or 212-739-7581
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, The Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Treasury under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to demand information concerning the appointments, vetting and conflicts of interest concerning members of the federal fiscal control board in Puerto Rico. The lawsuit comes as a result of the Department of Treasury refusing to respond to the FOIA request for nearly two and a half years. The board was created by federal statute known as PROMESA (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act) in 2016.
The complaint details how the Department of Treasury breached its legal obligation by not timely responding to the FOIA request, despite having admitted that it has located responsive documents. Among the information sought is the criteria used by the agency and other parties involved in the selection and vetting of members of the control board, including the assessment of each candidate’s nomination, which agencies formed part of the nominations and vetting process, the documents submitted by each candidate for the board, how the agency or other agencies established criteria and evaluated potential conflicts of interest, and any relevant information concerning the professional and personal background of each candidate that was used in their assessment. Treasury’s delay in producing the requested documents is compounded by the refusal of the fiscal control board to produce some of these same materials about its members, such as individual financial disclosure reports.
“The continuous lack of transparency from both the administration as well as the federal fiscal control board is what forced us to file this suit to demand basic information that should have been made public already. The information we are seeking is information that the people of Puerto Rico and the public in general should have access to when the nomination process for board members began nearly three years ago. This is just emblematic of how the people of Puerto Rico have to continuously force the government and the control board to make public its decisions and processes that are made in private and away from public scrutiny, despite having a devastating impact on millions of lives,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“Having access to these documents takes on new relevance when the re-nomination of current candidates is before the consideration of Congress and when the expiration of their term approaches this year. In addition, a federal appeals court has said that the way in which the current members were appointed was unconstitutional, which makes our request and demand to understand how the vetting process for candidates was managed by Treasury more pertinent. Our request is for public information that above all should have been available from the beginning for the sake of transparency and accountability of an entity that was not elected and that operates by legal imposition of the Congress of the United States. The agency’s refusal to answer our requests on basic aspects of a Board that, in essence, is controlling the destiny of our country is outrageous,” said Carla Minet, Executive Director of the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (“CPI”).
The lawsuit raises questions about the fiscal control board’s formation process and the lack of transparency in the selection of its members. Precisely, Plaintiffs share the public’s concern about the background of some of the board’s members and their affiliations and how both have influenced the decision-making process and functions of the board. Similarly, it raises concerns about the type of governance and accountability structures that exist, or the lack thereof, in the absence of effective citizen participation and lack of citizen oversight of the board’s conduct and policies.