News Bites from the CNMI

April 12, 2010


Another AAG resigns
Michael Evangelista is the latest AAG to resign from the Office of the Attorney General. That leaves the understaffed office with only four prosecutors: Rosemond Santos, chief prosecutor, Brian Gallagher, William Downer and Jennifer Docker. Evangelista leaves April 20th to join the law office of Joseph Camacho and Viola Alepuyo.

Fernandez Finally Terminated
NMC President Carmen Fernandez was terminated by the Board of Regents after two separate investigations confirmed that she was responsible for changing students’ grades and “other personnel matters at the college.” The findings were presented by the CNMI OAG and NMC’s legal counsel, Cabot Mantanona. The closed door session took over four hours with Fernandez’s attorney speaking on her behalf.

Fernandez will be terminated within 20 days of receiving notice which is expected to be within days. Since January 12, 2010 when Fernandez was suspended, the college has been paying for two presidents. Fernandez earns $80,000 annually. Interim president Lorraine Cabrera was awarded an $80,000 annual salary retroactive January 12, 2010. So the CNMI has been paying for two presidents for over two months.

Are the related investigative reports public documents? I imagine people would like to know the whole story and if the reports contain any information on the terminations of talented and dedicated instructors like Sam McPhetres.

Government Employees’ Work Hours Cut
Because of dismal fiscal conditions over 300 notices were sent to CNMI government employees announcing the intent to cut work hours.

Senator Paul Manglona (R-Rota) pre-filed legislation to amend the Constitution to lift salary cut exemptions for the governor, lawmakers, judges and justices when austerity holidays or work cuts are applied to other government workers, according to the Saipan Tribune.

The governor called for a reduction in spending. Has the governor revealed whether Jenner Block has been paid, is still getting $50,000 monthly, or when their contract ended? Has anyone asked?

Tax Rebate No More?
House Bill 17-50 calls for the end of the CNMI income tax rebate. It calls for reducing the rebate by 50% beginning April 1, 2010 and ending it by January 1, 2011. The bill was introduced by Speaker Frolian Tenorio.

The Chamber of Commerce is reportedly opposed to the bill. From the Tribune:
Kyle L. Calabrese, executive director of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, said that although the bill is styled as a reduction and elimination of a rebate, it is nothing more than a tax increase.

In his two-page letter, Calabrese cited six “minimum consequences” of HB 17-50, including the doubling of all income tax rates and withholding tax rates in the CNMI.

He said Guam will become more attractive to investors from a tax standpoint, as Guam uses U.S. tax treaties to determine withholding tax rates and a foreign investor's profit repatriation.

The CNMI's current rate is approximately 17.5 percent on repatriation, but this will go up to about 30 percent under this bill.

Calabrese said any project considering an investment in the CNMI will have to double its return on investment starting in 2011, dissuading new investment.

“Many companies doing business in the CNMI and Guam have structured their businesses to push revenues to the CNMI to take advantage of the tax rates. As this bill will take away our tax advantage, it will decrease governmental tax revenues,” he told Basa.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rosemond Santos isn't qualified to prosecute a case.

A guy at bar asks a girl her name and she replies "Carmen". He tells her nice name, "How did you get that name"? ""Well, she says, I changed it to Carmen because I like cars and I like men". "And whats your name". He replied "beerf&%k".

The chamber asked for it, and they have it.

Anonymous said...

The attorneys at the OAG have been underpaid for years, but working conditions have gotten significantly worse with political interference by the Legislature (Pete Reyes & Tina Sablan) and now the Governor.

Slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment and AAGs just won't put up with this anymore.

We need some institutional independence of the OAG, like OPA, with an AG salary the same as an Associate Judge's, secure tenure, and control of their own budget.

Jane said...

ON THE AG'S--

Mike Evangelista is just going to join other Covenant forces in private practice rather than at the AG's. I'm disappointed. I think he's been a good guy.

Brad Huesman is still an ardent Covenant supporter. His lawfirm will be handling the CUC work.

The rats are not deserting a sinking ship. They're just repositioning themselves for more lucrative contracts (and payback?).

Meanwhile, the police have been busy making arrests. It seems unlikely that the AG's criminal division will be able to keep up with the work, given the lack of manpower. How very frustrating for all sincere law enforcement personnel. Could be a convenient excuse for others?

Jane said...

On NMC.
Can't say this is a surprise. It is a relief that the shoe has finally dropped and people can move on. I'm guessing Carmen will sue and the NMC will be tied up in litigation, but that might be easy compared to what they've just been through.

Wonder how the WASC visit will go.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon-3:13PM
You must be joking. Tina Sablan didn't interfere at the OAG. What a misconception. That Tina asked for information and documents under the Open Government Act and the AG's office answered her request with excuses and a denial, prompting her to take the matter to court doesn't mean she was interfering.

The very fact that she used legal action, with due process and neutral decision-makers, shows this was not political interference.

The OAG is a government office subject to law.

There may be political interference in the OAG--it certainly seems like it. But it's coming from the Administration. (And I wouldn't be surprised if Pete Reyes or Stanley Torres also used their political clout to get certain actions/favors, but I haven't heard of any examples of this.)

But I do agree-there needs to be institutional independence--it's time for an elected AG.

AGO Watcher said...

Couple incredibly funny or ironic things:

#1- That the former Acting AG, or a member of the AGO, would post under an alias (OAG watcher) and attack someone (Tina Sablan) for questioning the law and utilizing a path set forth in the rule of law to challenge a refusal for documents under the OGA. That even after the AG was handed their ass and had to give up the documents they would still at this stage complain that Tina meddled and interfered with the AGO. The Rule of Law was served and the AGO, as usual, was unhappy and continues to throw a tantrum.

#2- Buckingham is quoted today in the papers and went before the Rotary to state that it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the executive branch and autonomous agencies to hire PRIVATE COUNSEL. LOL! Someone want to clue Bucky in on the Jenner & Block fiasco.

His King engaged in a contract with Private Legal Counsel, Jenner & Block (and others), without EVER going through the AGO at all. It is on record that the ACTING AG, Baka, stated that even though the Executive Branch bypassed the AGO there was IMPLIED consent because they DIDN'T contest it. LOL LOL LOL.

(side: Almost $5 million has been funneled from CNMI coffers to Jenner & Block. More than enough to satisfy the amount they are trying to save with austerity.)

So funny that now that CUC has hired Brad Hussman's wife(he was a former asst AG who just jumped ship) the AG NOW HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION. It is NOW UNCONSTITUTIONAL in the AG's eyes for the executive branch or an autonomous agencies to hire private counsel. The AG is NOW CONCERNED about the wasteful spending on private counsel when the Executive branch should be utilizing the already funded AGO.

WHAT A RIOT!

You can't make this stuff up.

At what point will we just end this crap?

Anonymous said...

Is there truth that Fitial commuted the 20 year sentence of drug dealer David Tanaka Diaz and that Diaz is now a free man?

Anonymous said...

The Judiciary is realizing that the Governor is now turning his sights on their Branch. For years the Judiciary refused to order the Executive Branch to compensate landowners; pay for malfeasance by doctors and other government employees; and uphold the Constitution. Now the dark pigeons have come home to roost and the Chief Justice is upset?

Cut the judges' salaries by the same percentage. If they complain, remove them. If they sue, remove them. If they object, overrule them.

As for the AG's office, that office has been in turmoil since Cadillac Aloot. Ed Buckingham will be a footnote in its history as nothing more than a water boy for Howard Willens.

As for Mike Evangelista and Brad Huesman, whatever happened to commitment to public service? They were tasked to protect the people and they leave because of the AG? Why not stay in spite of the AG? Do your work and do a good job. You are paid and so what is your beef? Brad is at DPL working with Oscar Babauta. Mike does criminal prosecution. How did Buckingham interfere? Losers.

Anonymous said...

AAGs are not slaves. The 13th Amendment outlawed it, and lawyers are not going to put up with the political attacks of Glen Hunter and others in this blog, inspired by Tina Sablan and Pete Reyes who have made attacking the OAG ("AGO" in the language of those who hate the office) a national sport.

Yes, Tina Sablan attacked the OAG in many ways. Worst was the bill that almost passed, that would have invited an acting-AG-of-the-month club whenever we can't find someone as persistent as Edward T. Buckingham.

Yes, she had every right to sue under the OGA, but her repeated press attacks, and trial-by-press release, were beyond the pale. She and Glen Hunter personalized what should have been a purely legal issue to an intolerable degree.

Disinviting Meaghan Hassel-Shearer to her birthday party? (!) Pete Reyes and Tina Sablan are primarily responsible for the extreme difficulty in attracting and retaining lawyers for the OAG.

Why would anyone want to make himself a public target for personal attacks and ridicule? That is not public service, it is public humiliation -- not part of the job description for an AAG.

Fortunately, Ed is thick-skinned enough that he will likely become the longest-serving AG in the history of the Commonwealth.

No thanks to his erstwhile supporters and now vicious critics.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:12

You appear to have a vendetta against Mr. Reyes and Tina and each time you post a comment you shift the focus from the reality. I am unimpressed and suspicious when people like you throw out accusations and gossip (...disinvited to a birthday party -are you serious?) and don't have the guts to reveal their identity! I am equally unimpressed when people resort to the juvenile line of targeting the press, blogs or individuals who DO have the guts to sign their names, and who put out the documented truth!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 6:12

You appear to have a vendetta against Mr. Reyes and Tina and each time you post a comment you shift the focus from the reality. I am unimpressed and suspicious when people like you throw out accusations and gossip (...disinvited to a birthday party -are you serious?) and don't have the guts to reveal their identity! I am equally unimpressed when people resort to the juvenile line of targeting the press, blogs or individuals who DO have the guts to sign their names, and who put out the documented truth!

Captain said...

6:12 your comments reads like Stanley has been sharing some of his medical "stash" with you along with his favorite drink. But I honestly think that you actually believe what you are writing through the "haze" in your mind.
Later try and read what you have written and then maybe you may realize things were not as you say.
Maybe you are one of the "puppet master" "volunteers"

The Saipan Blogger said...

and the birthday story is true.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Tina Sablan is the Al Gore of the CNMI. It's all her fault!

Get real. The AGO has been attacked long before Tina Sablan entered the political arena. A former AG writes the Saipan Sucks website; they have a long history of burning people.

Anonymous 6:12 said...

Wendy, no vendetta, accusations or gossip -- just facts and documented truth.

As for self-identification, if the comments have merit, they should stand on their own. If not, no amount of "vouching" should save them. I would have thought we are above judging the wisdom of an idea based upon its proponent.

Angelo, no one blames Tina for inventing opportunistic political attacks on the OAG, or claims that there is never a valid basis for any criticism at all.

Pete Reyes and Stanley Torres were doing that decades ago, and OAG turnover has been rapid since long before then. Why not ask Ian or any former AAG why he left?

In another thread, when asked to support the OAG, Wendy says she supports "justice." Has anyone ever considered that they are intimately connected, and that as long as we have a weak OAG, justice will be lacking?

Whether the AG is confirmed or elected is not as important as institutional independence:

* A set term -- four years, or six like the public auditor -- removable only for cause by both houses of the legislature through impeachment.

* Adequate salary -- the same as that of an Associate Judge on the Superior Court

* Independent budget -- the same as the Public Auditor or an autonomous agency.

Take care of these things and whether or not the AG is elected -- Do we also want an elected public auditor, like Guam? Be mindful of how Fitial was chosen for nine years -- the OAG will be a much more effective institution. Ignore them, and an elected AG will make no difference.

I am not picking on Tina as much as challenging her to take a lead on this issue, given her role in contributing to the problem and especially because her very strongest supporters are today the most outspoken and vitriolic critics of the OAG -- sometimes validly, but many more times mistakenly. Tina is a smart political operative, and will definitely have a role in the making of future CNMI history. If she were a has-been, mentioning her would be pointless.

For instance, a blog commenter is complaining about the AG trying to centralize legal advice and lawsuits -- in contrast to Fitial's hiring of the Section 903 outside counsel. Instead of laughing at the "inconsistency" with the snarky attitude that "the truth hurts" (actually, it sets you free), he should encourage the development of OAG institutional growth.

No one is wrong all the time.

It is much easier to tear things down than to offer real solutions or build people up and affirm one another. But the latter is how real progress is made.

Wendy said...

"As for self-identification, if the comments have merit, they should stand on their own. If not, no amount of "vouching" should save them. I would have thought we are above judging the wisdom of an idea based upon its proponent."

The way I see it is if someone owns a comment it has more validity. Anyone can throw poison arrows behind an anonymous name, but it shows character when someone owns the comment. The comment about the birthday party is gossipy and unrelated to the discussion or point of the post. Why not sign your comments if you stand behind them? Why hide?

Regardless, there is a serious problem in the CNMI with the OAG and the lack of public confidence in that office. Numerous politically motivated decisions that are not in the best interest of the public have been made in recent years and especially in recent months.

In fact, the whole system cries out for reform. There are far too many lenient sentences handed down to criminals. This is evidenced by return offenders. One can merely read the newspapers and trace the names back to other stories of previous arrests to see a clear pattern. Lenient sentences result in more crime perpetrated against innocent victims. Case in point - the Tinian sex offender who was arrested in December 2009 and arrested again last week for sexual assault of a minor. Where are the laws that call for strict minimum sentences for serious crimes?

Then there are the questions that no one will or can answer about furloughs. Why should a violent criminal who has possession of a handgun be given weekend furloughs? Who is allowed furloughs? How many? When? No one will state guidelines perhaps because there are none and nepotism and politics decide who gets furloughed. Such a dangerous system clearly puts the public at risk. Additionally, why should a violent attacker be eating popcorn at the movies on weekends instead of sitting in jail thinking about his crimes? What kind of punishment or deterrent is that?

This is a system that allowed thousands of foreign nationals to be systematically abused and cheated! What kind of OAG sits back and watches this? What kind of legal system allows $6.1 million in unpaid judgments to be excused while the violators go unpunished? It's truly remarkable.

Now the latest news is that a violent drug dealer who was sentenced to 25 years with no parole is out of jail after serving less than half of his sentence. This action doesn't cry out for answers? For accountability? Where are the lawmakers asking for investigations of this broken and dangerous system? Why aren't they rewriting laws to address these serious issues? Hello?!

You, anonymous commenter, are challenging a citizen (Tina) to take the lead? Sorry, I don't get this. Who are you? Why not you?

Who wouldn't challenge the inconsistency and conflicting statements coming from the OAG and the Fitial Administration? There is no money for public education, but money to hire all kinds of "special" consultants? This administration changes the rules whenever it wants to and this needs to be stopped. People are going to get hurt and I mean literally.

AGO Watcher said...

Noni 6:12am,

Your "just facts and documented truths" are only so in your own eyes. And no matter how much "truth" you try to blow into them they will always be filled with hot air to those around you with any common sense or basic knowledge.

Take for instance your "fact" regarding the birthday party (talk about childish, but I will entertain it on principle and to prove my point).

Your "fact" is that Tina "dis-invited" Meaghan. You say this is “documented”. You even have it backed-up by Angelo, who "vouches" for it.

I hate to burst your hot air bubble but...

Tina's last birthday party was a SURPRISE event that she had no knowledge of and none of the invitees were invited or dis-invited by her. She had no say so in who was told to come and I know for a fact that it was viral so anyone invited could bring whomever they so wanted.

So take your trite gossip and your "facts", "documented" and "vouched for " truths and stick 'em where they can fester for decades without further attempting to destroy our islands. I have a few places in mind.

----

Regarding your other statements of your own conjured up "fact" I will be brief.

- "I am not picking on Tina as much as challenging her to take a lead on this issue, given her role in contributing to the problem"

Challenge HER to lead?(!) Contributed to the problems?(!)
Who are you?(!)
A jaded lover?(!)
The dude from Kung FU?(!)
Home-bound and incapable of your own ability to lead?(!)
Grow some balls!

-"when asked to support the OAG, Wendy says she supports "justice." Has anyone ever considered that they are intimately connected"

Have you considered that they ARE NOT?(!)
Try looking into Aldan's gun, massage gate, the Diaz case, the OGA issues, and so many more direct and DOCUMENTED instances and tell me that one cannot argue and easily prove that the AGO is not a true supporter of justice. You, my dear, are the one that needs to open your eyes.


- "in contrast to Fitial's hiring of the Section 903 outside counsel. Instead of laughing at the "inconsistency" with the snarky attitude that "the truth hurts" (actually, it sets you free), he should encourage the development of OAG institutional growth."

There is no contrast. They are one in the same. The AG, not the commenter, needs to acknowledge that and make the needed corrections and hold the parties responsible. Since you too see this as an issue, I will borrow your own words and "encourage you to take the lead" on this issue. I have a very strong gut instinct that "you" have personally contributed to this problem.

-"It is much easier to tear things down than to offer real solutions or build people up and affirm one another. But the latter is how real progress is made."

What a hypocrite. You bring in names (Tina, Glenn, Pete)and cast stones and then you preach about the spirit of solutions and building people up?(!). You really should step back and take a deep breath and try and re-read what you have written.

-"No one is wrong all the time."

What is that supposed to mean? Would you leave a broken clock hanging on your wall because it is correct 2 times a day? Heck no. You would pull it off. It is time to pull the AG out and with it the strings to this corrupt administration.

Anonymous said...

Tina Sablan has been critical about almost every issue that plagues the CNMI. She has been vocal about her position on many of these issues. She has presented more solutions to each of the situations she has addressed.

You seem to think that her lawsuit against the administration and the OGA were attacks ("Yes, Tina Sablan attacked the OAG"). It is extremely immature for you to attempt to disregard or lessen the impacts of her actions by trying to paint them as nothing more than personal attacks.

You tell her to lead. She has led.

Here is just one of many, many times she has taken the lead:
Excerpt from MV - "The shutdown order was yet another example of the governor’s abuse of power, as then-Rep. Tina Sablan pointed out. Tina, who studied conservation science and graduated summa cum laude, worked as a nonpoint source pollution environmental specialist at DEQ. She noted that the water test results “did not warrant an emergency declaration, so none of these schools should have been shut down….” The governor’s order, she added, raised “serious doubts about [his] credibility and judgment.” It “caused significant chaos and upheaval for hundreds of students, teachers, school officials and families. Children actually wept when they were turned away from school. And for what? … I can’t imagine why anyone would knowingly and deliberately do something so reckless — and to children, especially.”

If what she is doing in launching personal attacks than perhaps it is time that WE, you and me included, start personally attacking these issues.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Yeah! Tina should stop hurting people's feelings!

Anonymous said...

Pathetic Angelo,

Here is a website that might be able to help ease your pain:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2054274_deal-unrequited-lovedeal-unrequited-love.html

Anonymous said...

AGO Watcher, you're a year late to the party and with the rest of your argument based on that.

Angelo, ignoring and even worsening the institutional failures of the AGO is not the same as mere "hurt feelings," as current events are bearing out.

We are lucky Ed Buckingham is so persistent in the face of insults, or where would we be? Ed will undoubtedly be the longest-serving AG in the first four decades of the CNMI Government.

Thank you Jane, Glen, and Slow! Where is that paragon of AG independence when you need her, Pamela S. Brown? Maybe we can convince her to run for the office, with a proper salary and term of office?

Joe Taijeron for AG! Biba Mike Ernest! AG Janet King, anyone?

AGO Watcher said...

Noni 12:14pm,

A year late? Tina's birthday is in May. Do you mean that you are whining about a "dis-inviting" of an AAG from May of 2008?(!) From 2 years ago? (!)

I truly feel for any partners you may have or may have had in life. I can only image the amount of baggage that you carry around if this (conjured up) instance from over 2 years ago still troubles you so.

You said, "ignoring and even worsening the institutional failures of the AGO" I think you, along with all the supporters of the Buckingham, Santos and this corrupt administration are the ones that are "ignoring and worsening" the AGO. Buckingham, himself, is an institutional failure at the AGO.

Buckingham is persistent alright. Persistently kissing the governor's butt and persistently being manipulated by the Administration. And I agree with you. If he keeps up this over the top "yes" man routine up than he surely will last the full 5 Fitial Years.

You ask "where would we be" without Ed Buckingham. We can only dream and hopefully imagine that possibility. A future without Buckingham, Santos and the master Fitial. We can hang on to that hope but the truth is, as you point out, we all have to open our eyes to the reality that he IS here and we have to accept that he is the sitting AG, however we don't have to swallow the garbage he dishing out on behalf of this corrupt administration.

Anonymous said...

Pam makes six figures as the Omsbudlady. She is the second highest paid federal, territorial, or local government official living in the CNMI after Kilili.

I don't think she'd want to waste her time with a CNMI government job.

Anonymous said...

6:12 is Greg Baka

AGO Watcher said...

I AM SO UPSET.

MEAGHAN'S BIRTHDAY WAS YESTERDAY AND I WASN'T INVITED TO HER PARTY!!!

BAKA, ARE YOU MAD TOO?(!) OR WERE YOU INVITED?