CNMI Week in Review: Coverups

September 18, 2010

Election-Gate: AGO Open Government Act Reveals Attempted Coverup

On September 2, 2010 the Kilili Campaign filed an Open Government Act request with the Office of Attorney General regarding the August 28, 2010 Joe Camacho campaign event sponsored by Attorney General Edward Buckingham and the Office of the Attorney General at the governor's residence.

Camacho is the Covenant Party candidate for U.S. delegate and is backed by the Fitial Administration.  According to a listing on the Camacho for Congress Facebook page, the AG and the Office of the Attorney General sponsored the Camacho campaign event. It is under investigation by the Office of the Public Auditor, and at least one Hatch Act complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Justice.

When the violation was made public in late August 2010, the AG attempted to relabel the campaign activity as a gathering for new employees and/or simply a dinner. However, email correspondence reveals that there is no doubt that the event was a campaign activity organized primarily during office hours using government equipment and resources for political resources. Since the OAG receives federal funding to hire attorneys and for other purposes, it appears that the Hatch Act was violated.

The Kilili Campaign made the released documents public on September 16, 2010. The website stated, "In addition, the Open Government Act request asked for any employee policies and guidelines that limit and restrict political campaign activity in the office, the text of speeches or statements made, photographs taken, and receipts and vouchers of money spent on the event." Those documents have not been released yet.

AAG Allen Hazlip is overseeing the collection of documents for the OGA request.  The Office of the Attorney General responded with some of the documentation that was requested. The documentation consists of email correspondence taken from computers at the OAG and a list of facsimile correspondence:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

The email exchanges confirm that the event was  intended to be a political campaign activity.

As far back as May 2010 government employee, Maggie Olopai-Taitano sent emails to other government employees during working hours concerning the Camacho for Congress campaign activities and inviting them to attend the events.

The AG made false statements in denying that the gathering at the governor's home was not intended to be a political meeting. He obviously knew it was. Email correspondence between the AG, his staff, and the Camacho campaign members, including Thomas Camacho, are titled "Friends for Joe Camacho" or reference the event that the OAG was to host:
  • Frieda Demapan to Thomas J. Camacho August 5, 2010, 3:07:36 pm --This is to clarify the date that the Attorney General and his group are going to be hosting the gathering at the Governor's House for Joe Camacho...
  • Frieda Demapan to AG Ed Buckingham, August 5, 2010, 12:45 pm --"Regarding the above mentioned subject (Hosting at Governor's house for Joe Camacho), I went ahead and emailed Tom Camacho who's in charge of the bookings for this event, and he said August 28th at 6:00 pm is open if you want that date to host for Joe Camacho..."
  • Frieda Demapan to Thomas Camacho, August 17, 2010, 1:52:34 am --"Time is of the essence and with very little resources, we need to stretch and do everything positive to make this a successful event for "The Friends of Joe Camacho." That is what the AG really wanted."
  • Frieda Demapan to staff of OAG, August 19, 2010, 10:34 am -- "I am taking it upon myself to inform you all that our Attorney General Edward Buckingham and the Office of the Attorney General as a whole will be hosting a gathering for Joe Camacho on Saturday August 29, 2010..." 
  • Tina Sakisat to Frieda Demapan, and copied to AG Buckingham, August 20, 2010, 9:42 am -- "...After asking 4 attorneys who asked if it was a political function I threw out the Joe Camacho part and just said it was an office party!"
  • Frieda Demapan to OAG staff and other government employees, August 21, 2010, 5:01 pm --"I am making a final head count as to who will be coming to the gathering for Joe Camacho..."
  • Ike Demapan to dozens of government employees including those at the OAG, August 24, 2010, 3:09:32 pm -- "...This is a REMINDER of this Saturday's gathering at the residence of the Governor. This event is hosted by Mr. Ed Buckingham and his office with support of the Friends of Joe Camacho for Congress 2010.
  • Peter Prestly to Frieda Demapan, August 19, 2010, 11:03 am --"Hi Frieda, I'll come and show support for Joe."
Without a doubt, the event was a campaign event for Joe Camacho!

It wasn't until after the improprieties were questioned that the AG and OAG employees started calling the campaign activity a "party for the new AAGs", or a non-political event.

I wrote about the questionable event on August 27, 2010 in the post, Is This Okay? and posted the Facebook page  that includes a public announcement of the campaign event sponsored by the OAG, as well as events sponsored by numerous other government departments, agencies and employees. A followup post was the subject of one of the email exchanges:

On August 30, 2010 at 3:32 pm, Marianas Variety reporter, Andrew deGuzman emailed AG Buckinham and others at the OAG stating:
"... respectfully requesting a statement/reaction from your individual representation regarding the attached email invitation for the "meet and greet" party for mr. camacho last saturday night...the email invitation has been leaked  
The Open Government Act Request documents contain none from the AG or any of the AAGs that discuss the De Guzman email or question who leaked the email.  The email exchanges that follow that email suggest that the AG knew he was in trouble:
  • AG to Angel Demapan (copied to Governor Fitial and Lt. Governor Inos and blind copied to Frieda Demapan), August 27, 2010, 8:08 pm --"I don't know if the fact that this gathering was announced as "public" helped contribute [to] the Tribune's questions. At any event, I'm not going to respond to the Tribune's questions. In case there is a followup from the media I want to be prepared. Accordingly I will record at least part of the event so a record exists in case we get media inquiries."
  • Frieda Demapan to AG Buckingham, August 27, 2010, 8:22 PM -- "Good evening, boss, I knew this would happen after Joe Camacho put out an invitation on Facebook inviting everyone to the gathering at the Governor's House tomorrow. I hope they don't put this in the newspapers tomorrow. Joe is very wrong in doing what he did. I guess he never realized the impact of Facebook, of all places. People all over the world are on Facebook. Bad!..."

The email that Buckingham sent to Angel Demapan, the Governor's Public Information Secretary, referenced the fact that the AG conspired with his executive assistant, Frieda Demapan, to make a staged video at the questionable event after they knew that they were exposed in supporting political activities.  The video that was played on KSPN2 following the event appears to have been fed to the press in a desperate attempt of back pedaling.

 In an August 31, 2010, 1:26 am  email to Frieda Demapan (and copied to the Governor, Lt Governor, AAGs, and others), AG Buckingham attempts to convince himself and Demapan that the event was not a campaign event:
" ...Again, so the record is clear, I ask you to coordinate with members of our office --especially to let them know that the event was voluntary. This was an appropriate use of your time and resources since the event was initially non-political. One it moved into the "political" communication should havee been done on personal time and not with government resources. Here you were acting at my direction to communicate information to members of the office. I understand and approve your requesting personal leave so time you spent sending out email is assumed to be on "your time." However, it is important to note that you have an unblemished record of service to the Commonwealth..."
Odd remarks to be declaring after the event was held. In the email Buckingham has bulleted talking points that are mismatched from reality.  He is clearly attempting to rewrite history, is out of touch with reality, or both.  Additionally, why would the Attorney General discuss "fixing personal leave time" after the days that would be marked as personal leave days have already gone by? This suggests a prior sketchy conversation in a further attempt to cover-up improprieties. It is truly amazing that this AG has not resigned, retired or been terminated. His lack of integrity is astounding.

 The AG blind copied the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the governor's office and Ray Mafnas, former political advisor for Fitial, and now the Director of the Department of Corrections, on most of his email responses to the press and to others.  Yet there were no return responses from the governor's office in the disclosed documents, which seems odd also. It begs the question: Why hasn't someone filed a similar  OGA request to get the records from the Governor's Office and the other government offices that have sponsored similar campaign events for Joseph Camacho? (See this post for a complete listing of the government offices that sponsored Camacho campaign events.)

Emails between Frieda Demapan and Thomas Camacho reveal that the Governor was involved in the planning of the event and was communicating with AG Buckingham to coordinate the event Conspicuously absent is any email correspondence from Meaghan Hassel-Shearer, the governor's hand-picked AAG to cover the upcoming elections.  Nor is there any correspondence from the governor to the AG officially directing that he appointed her to oversee the election.

 It is also strange that candidate Joseph Camacho and Governor Fitial have not commented on this happening and controversy.  But then again, why bother? Everyone knows it was a campaign event as   the Facebook page stated and everyone knows that Fitial cabinet members and high ranking political appointees are sponsoring Camacho campaign events and coordinating them on government time with government resources.

DPW Director Arrest: Coverup or Special Favors?
Politically appointed DPW Director of Technical Services, Joseph Inos, Jr., son of former Rota Mayor Joseph Inos, a nephew of Lt. Governor Inos, and a former student of mine has been charged with assaulting a 17-year-old Workforce Investment Agency trainee at his office.

The Saipan Tribune reported:
The OAG charged DPW Technical Services Division director Joseph M. Inos Jr. with assault and battery, disturbing the peace, misconduct in public office, and false arrest.

The Superior Court summoned the 32-year-old Inos to appear and answer the charges in court on Sept. 27, 2010 at 9am.

Chief Prosecutor Michael L. Ernest stated in the charging information that on Aug. 16, 2010, Inos “unlawfully struck beat, wounded, or otherwise caused bodily harm, or had sexual contact” with a 17-year-old child.

Ernest said that Inos unlawfully detained the minor by force and against her will.”
The Marianas Variety reported that the attack was a sexual assault:
On Aug. 16, the AGO complaint stated, Director Inos “did unlawfully detain [the 17-year-old victim] by force against her will.”

The AGO said the defendant “unlawfully struck, beat, wounded, or otherwise caused bodily harm, or had sexual contact” with his victim.

The AGO said Director Inos, as an employee of the CNMI government, “did an illegal act under color of office and willfully failed to perform the duties of this office as provided by law.”
The Variety reported that the OAG advised the Department of Public Saftey that it would proceed through a penal summons:
Variety learned that the Department of Public Safety had completed its investigation, and submitted an affidavit of probable cause to the AGO to support the issuance of an arrest order.

But the AGO advised DPS that the complaint would proceed through a penal summons.

Asked for comment, chief prosecutor Michael Ernest said in an e-mail to the Variety: “Because the Model Rules of Professional Conduct severely limit what a prosecutor may say, it is our office policy not to comment on possible, pending or incomplete investigations and/or cases. I will be happy to fully discuss this topic at an appropriate time.”

Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham told the Variety to reveal its sources so he could comment on the matter.

“I have to protect my office,” Buckingham responded when this reporter declined to identify the Variety’s sources.
According to my understanding, a penal summons is a statement of accused charges and an order to appear in court to answer to the charges, in lieu of an arrest.  With charges like this it seems that an arrest to remove the violent offender from the community to protect the public would have been an appropriate action.  Is this Covenant-appointee being protected because of family ties that reach to the Governor's Office?

The Workforce Investment Agency is federally funded.  Federal law enforcement officials should be investigating these serious allegations.  What steps are being taken to ensure that children are not placed in dangerous situations by this federally funded agency?  How was a child put in a situation where she was alone with the alleged abusive government employee to the extent that she was locked in his office and sexually assaulted?

Like father, like son?
On February 9, 1994 a Filipina club worker escaped to our house to seek assistance in filing a similar complaint against then Mayor Joseph Inos.  She alleged she was sexually assaulted by him on February 8, 1994. We helped her to leave Rota to file a complaint with the Philippine Consulate and authorities on Saipan. Like all of the sexual assault cases on Rota during that time, her case was ignored.

Read her statement:

No Coverup In This Case
When the federal government is involved, CNMI officials, no matter how well-connected, cannot escape the law or interfere in a case to benefit the defendant.  Case in point -- three additional charges have been filed against the governor's nephew, Tyron Farley Reyes Fitial, the Kagman Juvenile Detention guard accused of sexually abusing a child who was being held in the facility.

The indictment states that Fitial kicked and sexually abused V.S. who was being held in the detention center. Why are male guards even allowed to oversee or have contact with juvenile female prisoners?

The indictment further alleges that Fitial subjected a child under the age of 16, who is identified as A.A., to coerced sexual acts. Finally, the indictment alleges that Fitial raped a separate 13-year-old child, R.S., who was not being in the detention center.

If these allegations are true, this man is a dangerous pedophile attacker-criminal. I hope that the prosecutor, U.S. AAG James Benedetto, can ensure that this alleged despicable criminal is put away for a long time.

From the indictment:
On or about October, 2009, through February, 2010, the exact dates being unknown to the Grand Jury, in the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, TYRON FARLEY REYES FITIAL, the Defendant, while acting under color of law, knowingly kicked and struck V.S., a person in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who had attained the age of 12 years, but had not attained the age of 16 years, and thereby forced V.S. to engage in sexual acts, willfully depriving V.S. of rights secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, namely, the right to personal bodily integrity, and the right to be free of unauthorized and unlawful physical abuse by state intrusion. The offense resulted in bodily injury, and involved acts of aggravated sexual abuse against V.S., who was a ward of the Kagman Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facility.
(Title 18, United States Code, Section 242).

On or about October, 2009, through February, 2010, the exact dates being unknown to the Grand Jury, in the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, TYRON FARLEY REYES FITIAL, the Defendant, while acting under color of law, willfully subjected A.A., a person in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who had attained the age of 12 years, but had not attained the age of 16 years, to coerced sexual acts, thereby willfully depriving A.A. of rights secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, namely, the right to personal bodily integrity, and the right to be free of unauthorized and unlawful physical abuse by state intrusion.
(Title 18, United States Code, Section 242).

Between on or about October, 2009, through May, 2010, the exact dates being unknown to the Grand Jury, in the District of the Northern Mariana Islands, TYRON FARLEY REYES FITIAL, a 24-year-old man, did use a facility and means of interstate or foreign commerce, a telephone, to knowingly persuade, induce and entice R.S., a 13-year-old child who had not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in sexual activity for which a person could be charged under the criminal laws of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Commonwealth law prohibits any person 16 years of age or older from engaging in sexual contact and sexual penetration with a person who is 13, 14 or 15 years of age and at least three years younger than the offender. All of which is in violation of 18 U.S.C. 5 2422(b), made punishable by that section.
(Title 18, United States Code, Section 2422(b)).
There is a horrible pattern of local male government officials abusing innocent children and women in the CNMI.  If the dangerous criminal predators could be locked up for a few decades or life, maybe it would set an example to deter would-be-rapists. Perhaps the fact that in the CNMI so many violent criminals walk away from their crimes, are given lenient sentences, are given furloughs, are pardoned, or are given early release contributes to the persistent problem.


The Saipan Blogger said...

How many days was that goodbye? Welcome back!

Wendy said...

Hi Angelo-This post was done by personal request (see comment on the post below!) Back sporadically -can't post every day yet!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Buckingham is a liar and not worthy to be the AG. He must resign now. Anyone who believes his lies is as much of a fool as he is.

Anonymous said...

AUSA [= Assistant U.S. Attorney, and not "U.S. AAG"] James J. Benedetto is surely the right man to prosecute the DYS allegations.

At the OAG, it is good there are lawyers in the Criminal Division like Brian D. Gallagher. See page 00215 of the OAG document production.

Also, it turns out AAG Meaghan Hassel Shearer also did not attend the fateful "Meet and Greet," according to today's Marianas Variety.

It is not so odd that not everything requested by Kilili's counsel Mike Dotts has not been produced. This was a purely voluntary exercise by Attorney General Buckingham, as the request went way beyond the Open Government Act to personal or private records that are far outside the scope of the OGA as currently written.

If a similar request is made to the Governor, he may want to have Teresa Kim, Howard Willens, or outside counsel draft the response, since it appears the OAG has a conflict.

It would be fun to see Dotts take Bucky to court, though. Maybe Judge Govendo would apply a discretionary exception.

Anonymous said...

If Camacho was a good candidate, then this should be then end of him. We don't need Fital's personal dog in Washington hoping that his master throws him a bone now and again.
The Federal Government cannot just take over the CNMI. Even if there is corruption, that exists other places and the CNMI is supposed to control it's on laws. However, the Federal could just stop the gravy train. I know, this just hurts the local people, but the local people VOTED for these bozo's, so they are cupable also. My advice: The feds should let the local government pick up stray dogs, write cock fighting laws, cut a ribbon or two (two might be a stretch) and the leave the real governing to the people that...well, let's face it, Washington would do a better job (which is sad considering their track record). In other words: "Hey locals, time to start living by the Golden rule, He who has the Gold, rules".

Anonymous said...

Anyone else chuckle knowingly when reading about Bell, California?

The report found that internal “checks and balances” to ensure legal approval of the payroll and the management of bond funds were “virtually nonexistent,” according to a news release. City officials, the audit concluded, made a habit of “illegally raising taxes” and “entering into questionable contracts and land purchases.”

Mr. Chiang likened the city’s general fund to “a petty cash drawer.”

Echoing accusations by Los Angeles district attorney’s investigators, the audit found that Robert Rizzo, Bell’s former chief administrator, “had total control and discretion over how city funds were spent,” and oversaw the most egregious misappropriations of funds in a city where working-class families often rely on city and state services.