By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — A Sweetwater city commissioner complained to police about a journalist asking pointed questions about possible theft by her daughter-in-law.
Commissioner Isolina Maroño filed a complaint with the Sweetwater Police Department against television reporter Erika Carrillo, who was investigating an alleged embezzlement scheme involving the commissioner’s daughter-in-law.
INTIMIDATING: The mother of the former mayor of Sweetwater filed a complaint against reporter who was investigating the inappropriate use of public funds.
The incident took place last week, when the journalist from Channel 41 started asking questions at a senior center about the purchase of four trucks with money intended for the center.
According to the complaint, Maroño claims the reporter overstepped her bounds by asking an employee of the center if they knew if Jennifer Maroño had stolen money intended for purchase of the vehicles. Jennifer Maroño is the wife of Manny Maroño, the disgraced former mayor of Sweetwater, and head of special projects for the city.
“I never asked that. But even if it had, as a journalist, I have the right to ask whatever I want,” Carrillo told Watchdog.org.
According to official documents, the commissioner’s complaint was lodged one day before the reporter’s story broke, which detailed how two staff members of the city allegedly used state grant funds to purchase two 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe trucks. Soon after receiving the reporter’s findings, the supervisor of the agency, Alliance For Aging, initiated an audit.
One of the trucks was assigned to Jennifer Maroño. The other vehicle ended up in the hands of Johanna Rubio, head of human resources for the city and the godmother of Manny and Jennifer.
Carrillo said the commissioner’s complaint was likely an attempt to get her to back off the story.
“She shouted insults at me while I was recording the interviews with the seniors.” Carrillo said. “Then I think that she filed the complaint in order to intimidate me.”
Carrillo said the commissioner even showed up at the television station to try and convince the news director not to air the report. “She came herself, with Commissioner Catalino Rodriguez, commissioner of Sweetwater.”
NOT AFRAID: Erika Carrillo said the Commissioner was tried to intimidate her over her investigation. She (Isolina Maroño) shouted insults at me while I was recording the interviews with the seniors.” she said.
Sweetwater police spokesman Jorge Fernández de Lara told Watchdog that in personal disputes of this nature an officer completes a report and a shift sergeant verifies whether or not a crime occurred.
“If the sergeant evaluates the matter as a ‘non-crime,’ no further investigation is afforded to this matter and the report is files as ‘exceptionally cleared,’” he said. Some examples of non-crimes are barking dog complaints, neighbor disputes and disputes over parking.”
Sweetwater Mayor José M. Diaz confiscated both of the vehicles from Rubio and Jennifer Maroño until the embezzlement investigation is over.
Isolina Maroño didn’t respond to our request for an interview.
This is not the first time the Maroño family has made headlines.
Manny Maroño was arrested in August for allegedly accepting bribes and was later dismissed from his post by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He pleaded guilty in November and is awaiting a Jan. 23 sentencing. He could face up to five years in prison.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter
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