Not Buying That This is Okay

August 28, 2010

More thoughts on the Attorney General and staff hosting a gathering for Covenant candidate Joseph Camacho at the governor's mansion.  Yesterday's post, Is This Okay?, questioned the ethics and legality of "Ed Buckingham, Attorney General and his office" hosting a campaign event at the governor's mansion. The event was announced on the Camacho campaign's facebook page.

It's obvious the Fitial Cabinet members, elected officials, and CNMI agency and department heads are hosting events for Covenant Party candidate Joseph Camacho, as is evidenced by the Camacho Campaign's Facebook page and newspaper articles detailing events.  The high level government offices and government employees "hosting" or "sponsoring" the Camacho campaign "rallies", "gatherings" or "meet and greets" include:

  • Attorney General Edward Buckingham and office
  • The Indigenous Affairs Office, Ike Demapan, Executive Director
  • The Carolinian Affairs Office and Angelica W. Iginoef-Mangarero, Special Assistant
  • Rota Mayor's Office and Melchor Mendiola, Mayor
  • Rota Municipal Council and Chairman, George Hocog
  • Melvin Faisao, Secretary of Community and Cultural Affairs 
  • Ester Fleming, Governor's Administrative Assistant
  • Dan Neilsen, Governor's Education Advisor
  • Joseph Villagomez, Secretary of the Department of Public Health
  • Tony Muna, Director of CUC
  • Dolores Aldan, Governor's Special Assistant for Political Affairs
  • Rita Chong, Administrator of Coastal Resources
  • Dr. Ignancio Dela Cruz, Secretary of the Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • Sandy Tudela, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety
  • Martin Sablan, Secretary, Public Works
  • Michael Ada, Secretary, Department of Commerce 
  • Angel Hocog, Executive Director,Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture; 
  • Angel Demapan, Governor's Press Secretary
  • Rose Mondala, Director, Aging Office
  • Mariane Teregeyo, Public Liasion for the Department of Lands and Natural Resources
  • Remedio Buniag, Special Assistant to Women's Affairs
  • Sid Seman,  Director, Office of Personnel Management
  • Oscar Babauta, Secretary, Department of Public Lands
  • Ivan Blanco, Director, Department of Commerce's Central Statistics Division
  • Gary Camacho, Power Division Manager, CUC
  • Sylvan Igisomar, Director, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Also listed as hosting events for Camacho were Andrew Salas former Deputy Secretary of Labor,  WIC employee, Tony Gomez, Veterans Affairs Director, Jess Muna, Lucy C. Castro (affiliation unknown), and Keko Rosario (affiliation unknown).

 Anyone, whether a government employee or not, has the right to support any candidate of their choice, but they should be acting in a citizen capacity and not in a government employee capacity when they do so. They should be planning campaign events on their own time and with their own dime; not with government funds when they are clocked in at government offices.

The Office of the Public Auditor lists what political activities CNMI government employees are allowed and prohibited to participate in:

What kind of political activity is allowed?
A CNMI civil servant:
  • may vote for the candidate of his/her choice,
  • may express opinions on all political subjects and candidates,
  • may be a member of any political party, organization, or club, and
  • may make voluntary contributions to a political organization for its general expenditures.
What kind of political activity is prohibited?
Public officials or public employees:
1. shall not use public funds, time, personnel, or equipment for political activity unless that use is authorized by law or is incidental to a legally authorized or required activity. For example, they shall not at any time circulate any petition, including a nominating petition, in a government office,
2. shall not discharge, promote, demote, or change the status or compensation of any other official or employee or promise or threaten to do so:
  • for making or not making any contribution for a political objective,
  • because of the official's or employee's political actions or beliefs,
  • because of the official's or employee's failure to take any political action,
  • because of the official's or employee's support or non- support of a candidate seeking elective office, a political party, an initiative, or referendum.
3. shall not hand over to other officials or employees any money or other thing of value to promote any political objective.
4. shall not use their office or influence to:
  • interfere with an election, or affect its results, or
  • coerce the political action of any person or party.
5. shall not be obliged to contribute to any political fund or to render any political service nor will they be removed for refusing to do so.
6. shall not be pressured or coerced into political activities or support for political parties or candidates by threats to their employment.
7. shall not solicit or receive political contributions from anyone while on government time on government property, or in government offices.
8. shall not campaign for any candidate for public office during official working hours.
9. shall not promote or oppose legislation relating to programs of departments without the official sanction of the proper departmental authority. 
Neither a candidate for election, a public official, nor a public employee shall solicit or assess any contribution from any member in the Civil service.
Comments posted on this site and on the Marianas Variety indicate that CNMI voters are concerned about the fairness of the upcoming election for the delegate to the U.S. Congress.  The CNMI voter registration list on the CNMI Election Commission website contains the names of people who are deceased and who have not lived in the islands for years.  Some claim that Governor Fitial's many mainland off-island trips have included side-trips to solicit off-island votes to ensure Covenant candidate Camacho wins the election. Are the camapign  excursions like the recent one to Camacho's Rota camapaign event paid for by taxpayers? 

Here are some comments left on a previous post, Election Concerns:
Anonymous said...
Well, the recent elections give reason to be concerned about fraud right? Absentee ballots only go to "select" supporters? On Guam, absentee ballots are "received" by the liaison office, who is conveniently the notary, to process the voting (just to make sure); and who can forget the shenanigans by BenTan and what deals were made?
AUGUST 19, 2010 1:14 PM

Anonymous said...
200 of the ballots on Guam went to the same mailbox. Must be a really big family. Fitial administration also traveled to the US on the taxpayer dime to register select voters.
AUGUST 20, 2010 7:57 AM

Anonymous said...
11:05, yes, and I was told by one politician that every person that is "won over" from most families can mean about 70 subsequent votes. So look at how many "pardon's and sentence commutations" along with paroles and other "activities" that are being done by many in office. Stanley is a good example. Nothing done for the people, only for self interest and family and friends.
AUGUST 20, 2010 9:52 AM
In fact, using government equipment and time to plan and execute the campaign activities is a violation of CNMI law:
PL 8-11, 1 ( 8434); amended by PL 8-28, 3.
8534. Restraints on Use of Public Supplies, Services, Time, and Personnel for Campaign Activities.
(a) A public official or public employee shall not use public funds, time, personnel, or equipment for the public official or public employees private gain or that of another unless the use is authorized by law.
(b) A public official or public employee shall not use public funds, time, personnel, or equipment for political or campaign activity unless the use is:
(1) Authorized by law; or
(2) Properly incidental to another activity required or authorized by law.
(c) The Public Auditor may adopt rules specifying examples of political or campaign activity permissible or not permissible under this section.
How many of the government officials and government offices that are hosting or sponsoring Camacho campaign events have used their offices, equipment and time to conduct campaign activities such as sending emails to co-workers to invite them to campaigns for Camacho in violation of the law? Perhaps some of them have, perhaps all of them have.  It was suggested that the Indigenous Affairs, Carolinian Affairs and Aging Offices have in this or previous campaigns.  We know for sure that the Office of the Attorney General has.

OAG Campaign Email 
On Thursday, August 19, 2010, 10:30AM (during working hours) Freida Demapan, Executive Assistant to the Attorney General, sent an email to all of the CNMI Assistant Attorney Generals and staff stating:

Good Morning You All!

I am taking this upon myself to inform you all that our Attorney General, Edward T. Buckingham, and the Office of Attorney General as a whole, will be hosting a gathering for Joe Camacho on Saturday, August 28, 2010 starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Governor's House. As our AG has said, this gathering is not mandatory, but it would be nice to see our attorneys and staff come and enjoy the food, drinks and view and be able to socialize with other people throughout the night while this gathering is ongoing.

As a courtesy, I am humbly asking if you could inform me whether you are going to this gathering just so I can get a head count. I can be reached at either 664-2364 or my cell phone at ------------ or just email me.

thanks all so much.

Frieda R. Demapan
Executive Assistant to the Attorney General
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
Saipan, MP 96950
Phone: (670) 664-2364 Fax: (670) 234-7016
Cellular Phone: (670)---------------
That email correspondence presumed to be conducted on government equipment, on government time, sent to fellow government employees appears to be an unlawful political campaign activity carried out in the very office that should be enforcing and upholding law. 

It  falls under the "political activity that is prohibited" as listed on the OPA website and cited in this post above: "1. shall not use public funds, time, personnel, or equipment for political activity unless that use is authorized by law or is incidental to a legally authorized or required activity and 8. shall not campaign for any candidate for public office during official working hours."

Who will ensure a fair election in the CNMI? Should or can federal officials be tasked with overseeing the upcoming election? Or should or can they investigate allegations of unlawful campaigning that is happening now?

UPDATE: The Marianas Variety has an article on this story in today's paper by reporter Andrew De Guzman:
This reporter tried to cover the event on Saturday evening but was told it was a “private gathering.”

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial was heard telling the audience to “stay united.”

Camacho, for his part, thanked Fitial and Buckingham for hosting the event.

There were more or less 30 vehicles in the parking lot.

The Camacho for Congress Facebook account announced the gathering on Friday morning: “[T]he Attorney General and his staff are hosting our Candidate for U.S. Delegate Joseph Norita Camacho. The meet and greet will be at the CNMI Gov. Fitial’s residence in Gualo Rai. Please come and join us.”

At about 2:30 p.m., the announcement on the Facebook page was removed.
The page and the box of events sponsored by government officials was screen-captured as a pdf file, so removed or not there is evidence that it was on the public campaign page. The campaign page "invites everyone" and then tells the reporter that it is a "private gathering?" Interesting.

Saipan Tribune reporter, Haidee V. Eugenio, also covered this story. Both Congressman Gregorio (Kilili) Sablan and Republican candidate Juan Babauta expressed concerns with the Attorney General and his office hosting such an event:
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan, when asked for comment, said the attorney general should not have hosted Camacho's campaign event.

“Given that the attorney general and his office are entrusted by law to provide counsel on the conduct of the election to ensure that polling occurs in a manner that protects the individual interest of every voter as well as the interest of the Commonwealth as a whole in the integrity of the ballot, for him to have aligned himself in any manner-but particularly in one so overt as that advertised by Camacho-would be a grave breach of faith with the public he serves and an abrogation of his oath of office,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

...Sablan, who is seeking re-election, previously served as executive director of the Commonwealth Election Commission.

“Having served 10 years with the Commonwealth Election Commission, I could never have imagined that the attorney general would do something that would ever so undermine our faith in the Commonwealth government and the rule of law here in the Northern Mariana Islands,” he added.

Former governor Juan N. Babauta, who is running for the delegate seat, shared the same concern about Buckingham's participation in an election campaign.

“As the chief law enforcement of the land, it is unfortunate that he's mixing his very important role as attorney general and politics,” Babauta said in a phone interview.


Anonymous said...

This has to be investigated now, but who will investigate? The OAG or OPA? Ridiculous! Is this a federal crime also? Why have we become so complacent that we sit back and allow our elections to be stolen? Can we organize ourselves and end the corruption?

Anonymous said...

FBI Saipan Resident Agency
MHII Building #202
Marina Heights Business Park
Saipan, MP 96950
(670) 322-6934

Anonymous said...

Time for an elected AG!

Anonymous said...

The email is evidence of a violation. Which AAGs showed up at the gathering? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

Which ones showed up? You have to be kidding. The ones that showed up are the ones that want to keep their jobs.

Saipan Writer said...

I believe I mispoke about the Public Auditor--I'd heard that but have no corroboration. Would you please delete that bit?

Sorry, Wendy.

The Saipan Blogger said...

I may be wrong, but I think that since this is a federal election for a federal seat, federal election law must be followed. I am not sure if the local laws apply here. If there is going to be any prosecution, it will come from the Justice Department.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Anonymous said...

Federal election law must indeed be followed, but there is no federal crime based on these facts. There are violations of CNMI laws, and they should be prosecuted. Buckingham can also be disciplined by the Bar for violating the law.

Buckingham, if you have a shred of integrity left, resign!

Anonymous said...

Correct, there are voters listed on the voter list that probably are registered somewhere else -Jeffrey Turbitt?

Anonymous said...

When former CNMI residents register elsewhere, the board of elections in the gaining jurisdiction notifies the board of elections in the jurisdiction of the voter's prior residence.

Thus, the Commonwealth Election Commission routinely removes former residents now registered elsewhere from the election rolls.

But if they don't register elsewhere, or don't list their former CNMI address, then people may be left on the rolls. But they will be removed too, eventually, for not voting in the CNMI.

Anonymous said...

How many emails like this one were sent from all of the other government offices that hosted or are hosting Camacho campaigns? It looks like the entire campaign is based on government offices getting their employees' support.

Anonymous said...

The critical question is whether Frieda Demapan was directed, instructed, or had it suggested that she send this political e-mail on government time (assuming she was not on leave) or with government resources (assuming it was not sent from home). Or did she do this on her own initiative?

If this was at someone else's behest, was it at Ed Buckingham's or someone else's?

These are the factors in determining who may be subject to discipline, legal action, or who may need to resign.

Until these facts are known, we are just guessing. Kind of like the cost-saving alternative medical treatment that was so controversial last January.

Anonymous said...

2:42 Here's my guess. If the email has her signature on it, it is sent from her email account. It is officially signed whether sent from her home or office. I guess that Buckingham told her to send it. She didn't include him in the email. You think she did that on her own?

Anonymous said...

Yes, this stinks just like massage-gate. Bet they are making up their story right now.

Anonymous said...

Most non-federally funded CNMI government agencies (including the OAG) do not have government e-mail. They use free accounts such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Google or other personal accounts.

Was she on a break when she sent it? From where?

The "official signature" could be for identification, or the default setting on her e-mail account. It would be tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the e-mail constitutes use of the agency "name" or misuse of government resources.

UNLESS it was composed or sent on a government computer. Someone should record the IP address on that message. Even if she wipes her computer, the various e-mail recipients and especially the e-mail provider should have records of where that message came from, down to the computer serial number -- which would be registered with the vendor.

But who will send out the subpoeanas?

As for who directed her, recall that she is married to a noted Covenant supporter and campaigner.

It remains to be seen whether the direction originated from Buckingham Palace or elsewhere. But time may tell.

Anonymous said...

She asked to be contacted on at a government issued telephone, she had a government signature and the most telling violation:

"to inform you all that our Attorney General, Edward T. Buckingham, and the Office of Attorney General as a whole, will be hosting a gathering for Joe Camacho on Saturday, August 28, 2010 starting at 4:30 p.m."


Anonymous said...

How many replied on their government computers?

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Eric Holder campaign for Barack Obama?

Anonymous said...

No, Obama appointed him AFTER the election.

Anonymous said...

AG Holder still campaigns.

Bucky and Holder are two peas in a pod.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:48

Proof please. WHERE and WHEN did Eric Holder campaign when he was Attorney General using his title and office to circulate invitations? Who did he campaign for?

Anonymous said...

You are right. A Google search for:

"Eric Holder" "2010 campaign"

does not reveal the level of campaign activities as the President or other cabinet officers.

Anonymous said...

This is not the first time for Mr. Buckingham.

In the run-up to the 2008 Presidential election, Ed had Obama campaign materials posted on office walls, in clear violation of CNMI election law.

Apparently he has never paid close attention to this aspect of the law.