Former Loíza administration to be referred to Justice Department
SAN JUAN — Elected Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario Fuentes will refer to the Justice Department and federal authorities several irregularities allegedly committed by her predecessor, Eddie Manso, which are related to possibly federal fund misuse, destruction of public documents, and granting a contract to replace a switchboard that never worked, among others.
“The referrals will be made to the authorities so they determine whether… [Manso] committed any felonies. We will refer what we find, regardless of who it falls on. There are some serious allegations. Public document destruction and alterations is a crime under any jurisdiction…. From my point of view, we believe there is probable cause to understand that crimes were committed. We will end this month of January to make the referral as soon as possible to Justice and the FBI or the district attorney’s office,” Marcos A. Rivera, executive director of Nazario’s transition team, said.
Rivera said during the transition with Manso’s work team, it was revealed that employees from Loíza’s Emergency Management Department altered tickets to purchase fuel for private vehicles. Meanwhile, the director of the First Lady’s and Community Affairs Office and its manager granted money from the “Emergency Solutions Grant” program to their own family members and acquaintances.
“They used municipal equipment during work hours for private and personal purposes. Regarding aid from the Emergency Solutions Grant, public documents were altered, they didn’t request corresponding reimbursements and they infringed on Government Ethics Law. In our understanding, there has been fraud with federal funds and it must be investigated by the corresponding authorities,” Rivera stressed.
He also mentioned the discovery of 33 computers that were acquired by the municipality in May, just days before the general elections, and that in October a municipal employee transferred the equipment to Humacao to decommission it without consulting the information technology director, Juan Pérez.
Likewise, Pérez wasn’t consulted for the installation of a new switchboard in Loíza.
“The municipality of Loíza entered into a contract with Ricoh to install a switchboard, and in the transition hearings the testifying information technology director, Juan Pérez, indicated that the decision to hire that company wasn’t consulted with him, being the only expert on the subject. Mr. Pérez stated he didn’t know who authorized that contracting,” Rivera said.
As part of the transition hearing process, they discovered that Ricoh subcontracted Netcel to install the telephone equipment, but a conflict arose with the installation and the telephone lines’ operations, and to this day none of the principal municipal dependencies have been able to benefit from the switchboard.
“Before this grave situation, now neither Ricoh nor Netcel have wanted to solve the situation, creating a state of non-communication between one dependency and another. It was discovered that Loíza has another contract with Ricoh in printer leasing, and although that contract and the one for the switchboard indicate they were granted separately, the truth is that in the transition report we were handed, both of them have the same contract number,” he said.
Regarding the 33 computers allegedly decommissioned, Rivera noted they discovered that a municipal chauffeur in a vehicle assigned to Manso transported the equipment in October until the Transportation & Public Works Department and then, “without informing the information director,” transferred them that same day to Humacao for final disposal, “without approval from the Recycling Department.”
“This is an action unequivocally contrary to the dispositions that apply to the way municipal property is disposed of. The Finance and Budget Office stated that the municipality has a debt of approximately $2.5 million,” he declared.