Political Games in Fitial Administration

February 15, 2010

Massage-gate proved to provide the scandalous and prominent opening of Governor Fitial's second term. His order to have his masseuse-prisoner released from jail to give his a massage is a major controversy that has not ended. Qingmei Cheng was arrested on January 5, 2010 for attempting to bring aliens into the United States and was ordered held without bail as she was considered a flight risk. The governor refused to acknowledge any lack of judgment and has yet to apologize for ordering her to his house to "relieve back pain."

The U.S. attorneys may still investigating the prisoner's release according to some sources. The violation of the federal court order remains unresolved as no charges have been filed.

Now the Marianas Variety reports on "political sweetheart deals" between the administration and the legislature. Of course, the public already knows that appointments have routinely been made based more on loyalty to the governor than on the appointee's experience and qualifications. Just last year Lino Tenorio was released as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections because he made public his intention to run as a Republican for the office of mayor. Fitial claimed he was disloyal to the Covenant Party and he appointed the notorious Dolores San Nicolas Aldan to the position of DOC Commissioner. Aldan supports the Covenant Party, is a leader in the indigenous rights group, and supported Fitial's anti-federalization lawsuit publicly and in court documents.

A concerned citizen, who quite understandably wants to remain anonymous, questions the appointment of some unqualified individuals to prominent positions within the administration. One of those is Melvin O. Faisao who was nominated to head the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

The concerned citizen stated in a letter to Senate President Paul Manglona:
“I would like to remind each of you that the people of the CNMI voted for you and are displeased with the negative turn of events, the political sweetheart deals and courtship that the members of the House and the Senate are having with the governor. “Each of you has a fiduciary duty to uphold the constitution, its laws and the interest of the CNMI people to include the rights of government employees and the efficiency and effectiveness of government services.
The letter writer accuse Faisao of "mismanagement and lack of professionalism" stating that under his management the Arts Council lost federal funding, and employees protected by the Civil Service Commission were transferred against their will. The letter states, the Youth Detention Center was “closed down by the feds and transferred to the Department of Corrections; the U.S. Department of Labor sanctioned DCCA for unpaid wages; the Office of the Auditor is now investigating DCCA’s Office of Aging on misuse of government vehicles and federal funds to purchase food, beverages and propane gas for the Covenant Party campaign rallies.”

The Marianas Variety reports:
The concerned citizen also alleged that Faisao, a former House member, ignored the civil service law when he re-assigned some DCCA employees to the Kagman Detention Center even though the federal government had already closed the facility.
These employees believe their support for Republican candidates in the last elections prompted Faisao’s decision to transfer them.
The concerned citizen called on the Fitial administration to consider another appointee for DCCA which also deals with the federally funded food stamp program.
“There are many individuals within Governor Fitial’s Covenant Party who are college educated and have higher qualifications and accomplishments who demonstrate professionalism and leadership that the governor could have nominated as DCCA secretary,” the letter writer said.
“I hope there are still sensible leaders who will look beyond the party and vote with ‘common sense’ and the people’s interest first,” the letter writer added."
There has also been considerable concern over the appointment of Dolores Aldan as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections. She was involved in a scandal with her husband's former common-law-wife. Some also question why she is allowed to furlough her prisoner-husband from jail on the weekends. Additionally, she was responsible for delivering the prisoner-masseuse to the governor's home at around 3:00 am without authorization. Clearly, the woman has shown repeated instances of extremely bad judgment and has even violated standard detention policy. (Please see this post and this post for details on problems at the DOC and Aldan's lack of judgment.)

It's telling that people want to remain anonymous when speaking about the Fitial Administration. Nasty retaliatory tactics like pulling public ads from the Marianas Variety because of unfavorable publicity, allegations of paying people's CUC bills in exchange for votes, reports of promises of jobs in exchange for votes, and other unethical allegations and actions cloud the CNMI's reputation and create a climate of fear and submission. How many people who reported anonymously on massage-gate to the press prefaced their comment with a request to remain anonymous because they couldn't afford to lose their jobs? Political favors have and will continue to harm the residents of the CNMI until more people speak up and demand ethical government.

Fitial and Sablan
The Marianas Variety also covered the story of a "rift" between U.S. Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan and Governor Fitial. Allegedly Governor Fitial has ordered members of his administration not to visit delegate Sablan when they are in Washington, DC. or "to seek his help in facilitating meetings between CNMI and federal officials."

Fitial claimed the only time he did not stop by Congressman Sablan's office was last year when he "had lunch with Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo instead of Sablan." The offices of Boradallo and Sablan are next to each other in the Canon House Office Building. It may not have been too difficult for the governor to visit both delegates and it seems logical that if faced with time restraints the governor would certainly visit the delegate from the CNMI.

Everyone noticed that when the congressional delegation visited the NMI in August 2009 Congresswoman Bordallo (D-Guam) and Fitial's friend and political ally, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) failed to attend the meeting with the nonresidents. In any other locale even the governor would have attended the meeting with the nonresidents, which was attended by the chair of the House Resources Committee Nick Rahall II (D-WV), Congressman Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI) and Congresswoman Donna Christensen (D-VI).

The Variety reported:
Sources said the governor was apparently upset that Sablan sought the federal prosecutors’ help to stop a group of Korean investors from making false advertisements about the CNMI.
“This puts the CNMI government workers seeking federal grants in a bind since Sablan’s office has been facilitating meetings between CNMI and federal officials and staff,” one of the sources said.
Sablan’s legislative assistant, Julia Martin, was supposed to meet with Department of Public Health officials so she could familiarize herself with the islands’ health care situation.
However, the governor’s office cancelled Martin’s meeting at the last minute. But she did manage to meet with other health authorities.
If we listen to the spin from the Office of the Attorney General and other Fitial supporters claiming that the governor's health is so poor that it should be accepted by "caring"people that the decision to remove a prisoner from jail for a massage was a critical health matter, then we should also question whether or not the governor is healthy enough to take another trip to Washington, DC. He will be attending the annual governor's meeting with his wife, Josie next week.

Political games are obstacles to effective government, blocks to sound fiscal policy and they impede social justice. Governor Fitial may be one of the champion game players. The Speaker of the House, Froilan Tenorio is another skilled political game player. As long as the people submissively accept the political games and allow elected officials to bully them, then the public will continue to be the recipient of the injustice and the problems that such games reap.


Anonymous said...

Ai adai si Benigno. He keeps digging the CNMI into a deeper hole.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, the public already knows that appointments have routinely been made based more on loyalty to the governor than on the appointee's experience and qualifications."

Wendy, this has always been the case with every single CNMI Administration. In fact, previous admins were far worse than this one in terms of political favors. The ultralibdem Juan Babauta was famous for hiring his 'special' friends. This included garment industry folks, etc.

Anonymous said...

Investigations with the OPA usually never go anywhere. They usually hand the big stuff off to the Feds. The local investigations die in the AG's office. Look how many cases were prosecuted under 8 years of Mike Sablan's leadership? Mr. Pai has done nothing since he was appointed.

Anonymous said...

noni 7:13 yes, there will be a certain amount of corruption and political garbage in every administration, but clearly Fitial is the champion! no one can trump King Fitial!

TAGLISH said...

I hope they know "Silence is the mischief of truth and sanity"