June 16, 2011

CNMI Attorney General Edward Buckingham is suing the Office of the Public Auditor for hiring two attorneys, claiming that Secretary Michael Pai did not follow procurement procedures. The lawsuit filed in the CNMI Superior Court alleges that the auditor bypassed the Procurement Director, the Attorney General and the Governor making the contracts of attorneys Brian McMahon and Joseph Pryzyuski invalid.

According to the Saipan Tribune:
...Pai signed on Dec. 2, 2008 a sole source independent contract agreement with CNMI attorney McMahon for part-time legal services to be provided to OPA for a period of one year.

He said the contract provides for payment based on attorney billings at $125 per hour for legal services, not to exceed $40,000 in total, for a term commencing Dec. 2, 2008 and terminating Nov. 30, 2009.

Pai allegedly signed on Nov. 12, 2010 a change order no. 2 purporting to extend OPA's sole source contract with McMahon for one year.

Buckingham signed the change order no. 2 on Jan. 7, 2011 and forwarded the procurement documents to the governor's office for final review.

Hazlip said subsequent to Buckingham's approval of the change order for OPA's contract with McMahon, the Office of the Attorney General learned that OPA previously had executed an employment contract in November 2010 to hire Przyuski as part-time legal counsel for OPA.

Hazlip said the Przyuski contract was never submitted to the OAG for review and instead another OPA attorney, Nancy Gottfried, approved the contract on Nov. 15, 2010.

The contract is for a period of employment commencing Nov. 22, 2010 and continuing until Nov. 21, 2011.
Another article from the Saipan Tribune explains that the OPA has the legal standing to hire and terminate personnel without approval from the governor, OAG or others CNMI departments:
1 CMC 2305. Public Auditor: Staff partly reads: (a) The Public Auditor may appoint and remove such employees as he or she deems necessary to perform the duties of the office. These employees may include assistant public auditors, accountants, auditors, financial management analysts, investigators, attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, clerks and the like.

1 CMC 2306, meanwhile, states that the public auditor may obtain the services of independent certified public accountants, qualified management consultants, or other professional persons, as the public auditor deems necessary to assist in carrying out his or her duties...

OPA's personnel regulations also give the public auditor authority to appoint and remove employees as he deems necessary to perform the duties of the office.
Both Public Auditor Michael Pai and AG Buckingham were appointed by the governor. Isn't it odd that one office would be suing another? It seems that any procedural differences or issues could and should be resolved outside of a courtroom.

It certainly looks like the Attorney General is trying to stick it to Public Auditor Michael Pai and the Office of the Public Auditor because of the OPA report detailing the results of the investigation  conducted regarding the AG Buckingham's improprieties and alleged election fraud during the last election.  Buckingham allegedly used his position to strong-arm government employees to attend a campaign event at the governor's mansion that was reportedly sponsored by the OAG to support the Fitial Administration's candidate. (See Election-Gate for previous posts and details on this unsettled scandal.)

Attorney Przyuski was the lead investigator in the Election-Gate scandal and drafted the OPA report that was said to have been unfavorable to the AG's actions. This cannot be a coincidence.

AAG W. Allen Hazlip, who filed the lawsuit, noted that Attorney Przyuski has not been in Saipan or in the CNMI since September 2010. I guess that argument is to say therefore he is not offering legal assistance. Perhaps like Fitial's so-called volunteers - Deanne Siemer and Lynn Knight -  Przyuski has been doing his legal work for the OPA from another location. (It should also be noted that the AG and Governor's Office are in violation of the Open Government Act for refusing to disclose the invoices and amounts paid to Deanne Siemer. This information was requested by Tina Sablan and only vague information was released as this previous post notes.)

More ironic is the fact the this Attorney General claims that he is suing because the hiring of the two attorneys “threaten an imminent waste of public funds.” This same AG had no problem using $12,940 in public funds to hire private attorney Anthony Long to defend him against any potential ethical and legal charges in the Election-Gate scandal! 

Activist and Saipan resident Glen Hunter pointed out that the AG didn't investigate or sue regarding questionable contracts "approved or ignored" by the OAG:
• the hiring of Washington, D.C. law firm Jenner & Block
• the Department of Public Health lawsuit regarding the dialysis center in which attorneys were hired on contingency and walked away with over $600,000 in one suit alone
• the Retirement Fund’s outsourcing professional legal contracts that included payments of over $500,000 to one attorney in a three-year span
• the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s professional legal contracts with numerous outside counsel, including one who earned nearly $200,000 in a year
• the sole source contract for ARRA management

“And most ironic of all, a sole source contract for personal defense representation for Ed Buckingham related to OPA’s investigation of his actions, signed by himself and the governor and paid for by taxpayers,” Hunter said.
The U.S. Office of the Special Counsel that is also investigating this case should request a copy of the secret OPA report on Buckingham's improprieties that the governor and OPA refuse to disclose to the public. It is a classic Fitial-Buckingham move to hide and deny alleged misconduct, and even alleged illegal acts committed by Fitial Administration personnel as appears to have been the case in Massage-gate and Gun-gate, as well. Any improprieties committed by a high-ranking government official in a federal election should reap severe consequences, rather than a slap on the hand. This latest action which smacks of retaliation should help convince the OSC to continue investigating the Election-Gate case.


Anonymous said...

Buckingham is without doubt the most spineless, worthless bag of pus to ever hold the AG position. He is a small, petty man with delusions of grandeur. He is also ethically challenged in the extreme. He uses the power of his office solely to settle personal vendettas and to advance the partisan political interests of his mob boss. He should be fired, disbarred and criminally prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

Well, the above comment was nitpicking... Okay, everything that was said or implied in the blog might be true and the above comment might be...well, let's just say they have issues with the AG.
Taking all of that, what the AG is doing could be absolutely correct, if indeed, payback. There is so much mudslinging and junk going on this island that it's hard to point in the middle of the fight someone's garbage. In other words, let's hope the AG is following the law when dealing with the case no matter how much personal pleasure he might get from it. We would not want him to ignore the law just because someone might say he's being vindictive. It kinda goes with that territory. When the opportunity presents itself and it'a LEGAL then, by all means, the AG not only should proceed, but has a duty to do so.
I don't think the current AG is quite as bad as the comments above. Mainly becuase I don't think he smart enough to hatch any elaborate plan. No, he just does what alot of other people do--dumb things.
But, please God, PPPLLEEEESE stop Bucky if he ever wants to text his junk to anybody.