Vendetta-Gate: Incredible Statements!

June 20, 2011

I guess some people really don't care about ethics, their reputations, or looking foolish. Such appears to be the case as evidenced by actions and statements from CNMI AG Buckingham and Governor Fitial in the most recent CNMI scandal, Vendetta-Gate.

AG Buckingham is suing the Office of the Public Auditor, another government department.  It looks like he is suing just because he can, and it sure appears to be retaliation or a vendetta. In normal circumstances most government officials within the same administration would sit down and discuss conflicts, especially because the parties are both appointees of the governor. Still nothing in this administration is normal. The governor has even had public disagreements with his own lieutenant governor!

Today Buckingham makes some head-scratching statements that only make him look worse, if that is possible.  He claims that Attorney Pryzuski, who was hired by Public Auditor Pai to investigate Buckingham's alleged illegalities during the last election was not living in Saipan at the time of his contract with thee OPA, and is therefore not a member of the CNMI Bar.  The CNMI Bar website lists Pryzuski and many other attorneys who do not reside in the CNMI as members of the CNMI Bar.

What's the problem? Is there a law that states that attorneys have to live in the CNMI if they represent government offices? This can't be.  Jenner and Block attorneys that represented the governor in his anti-federalization lawsuit are based in Washington, DC.   Volunteer attorneys Siemer and Willens listed their address as Washington, DC also. Additionally, some other consultants and attorneys hired by the Governor's Office who have also been paid from CNMI coffers were located off-island in California and Washington state.  So why the lawsuit, if it is not retaliation?

Again the Saipan Tribune quoted Buckingham as saying that he filed the lawsuit because he didn't want to see a waste of public funds. This guy used almost $13,000 in public funds to hire a private attorney to defend himself against ethic and legal charges in Election-Gate. What a hypocritical, disingenuous and hardly believable remark!

Good for Auditor Pai for standing up to the Administration bullies!  The Marianas Variety quoted the auditor:
Public Auditor Michael Pai informed Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham that the Office of the Public Auditor, “as an independent agency, is statutorily designed to withstand outside attempts at undermining its lawful efforts.”

In furtherance of OPA’s independence, Pai said he is “solely and specifically authorized to enter into employment contracts as he or she deems necessary.”
The source of funds to pay the services for OPA attorneys Brian McMahon and Joseph Przyuski  “is held in a special account separate from the general fund to prevent any attempt to compromise or interfere with the activities of OPA by threats to its funding,” Pai said in response to Buckingham’s April 6, 2011 memorandum.

Pai said Buckingham’s memorandum “does not identify the legal vehicle to be utilized should you undertake further action; or, specifically identify the legal issues created by these contracts.”

According to Pai, OPA is “an independent agency, statutorily mandated to audit and investigate all other government agencies and departments.”

To protect OPA’s independent nature, Pai said the public auditor is “removable only ‘for cause’ and thus is protected from political removal for mere honest and aggressive performance of official duties.”

“You appear to take issue with this,” Pai told Buckingham, referring to Przyuski’s contract.

Pai said he has the “authority to change an employee’s duty stations if he finds such reassignment to be in the best interest of government.”
The auditor also discussed the fact that because Attorney Pryzuski no longer resided in the CNMI when he contract with the OPA was extended, he no longer  received a housing stipend.  He also received a low hourly rate for his services.  Could it be any clearer? Sure looks like a vendetta! And with the frivolous lawsuit the AG has filed against the OPA it also looks like it's the OAG that is wasting public funds.

Auditor Pai also made a statement to KSPN2 News on June 20, 2011. He said, "This complaint is the latest of what appears to be a series of attempts by the AG to disrupt OPA’s access to legal counsel and to challenge its autonomy.”

This AG needs to concentrate on the real problems in the CNMI - crime, corruption, drug rings, abuse of innocent foreign workers. Or maybe he could spend some time brushing up on the laws as related to the OPA, and the Hatch Act.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of La Fiesta Gate and Hutton Gate during the Juan B Administration. A lot of people went down. Same old story Wendy, different Administration.

It's not your money! said...

Kudos to Mike Pai for pushing back on this. The independence of the Public Auditor is the only thing preventing the CNMI from becoming a banana republic. And the raspberry to Ed Buckingham for not appreciating the irreparable damage he has done to his office. Ed used to complain that Greg Baka was illegally occupying the OAG, but Greg was twice as smart as Buckingham, and knew the meaning of the word integrity.

Wendy Doromal said...

It's not your money -exactly!

Anonymous said...

Although I was not agreeable with Baka as the AG, I have to agree with the present comment regarding Baka.
Maybe that is why Fitial chose Buckingham for this position, because Buckingham so much mirrored Fitial in the respect of not having any scruples, ethics, integrity and blatant disregard for the law.
Buckinham is so easily controlled by Fitial so makes him a perfect puppet.

Anonymous said...

La Fiesta gate and Hutton gate - about what do you rant? Hutton was immediately reassigned and not renewed and the case was settled for a handsome amount with very little proof. La Fiesta gate was nothing but rumors based on BenTan lies. To compare the BB administration to these thugs in power is not only ludicrous but smacks of for whom the "anonymous" writer carries water and from whom gets his few crumbs. Disgusting perveyor of lies.

Anonymous said...

The alleged problem may be that the temporary four-year bar membership of Joseph Przyuski was valid solely as an employee of the CNMI or one of its agencies.

The contract for long-time CNMI bar member Brian McMahon was obviously as an independent contractor. What about Joe? If the same, that could be a problem. If an employee, not so much (or at all).

Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham III seems to think that the AG must approve all government contracts. However, this has not been the practice for certain autonomous government agencies (such as the Commonwealth Port Authority, NMIRF, and OPA) that have statutory independence and authority to promulgate regulations for accomplishing their business autonomously.

Perhaps the OAG is using this as a test case to declare such laws unconstitional, as being in violation of the defined powers of the AG. N.M.I. Const. art. III, § 11. (It would be nice to get an electronically file-stamped copy of the complaint from one of the participants; it is a public document.)

If such is the AG's theory, it appears to be overreaching and I don't think it will succeed (though it could save the government legal fees in the long run, as Tina Sablan's OGA requests have made clear). Regardless, it would be good to have a definitive court decision on this issue.

Thus, this might very well not be the "retaliatory" lawsuit some are positing it to be. (It might help to see the complaint for insight about that.)

There might also be benefit in a "friendly" lawsuit about differentiating NMD and non-NMD ballots in an Article XII-related initiative measure (while counting all votes), perhaps in the context of a non-controversial change such as reducing the blood quantum to 3-1/8% or even "any descent".