Crossing the Line

July 24, 2011

CNMI and federal officials should not run for public office or accept a position of authority if they don't expect criticism and disagreement from the public,  taxpayers and the press.  This includes Governor Fitial, Attorney General Buckingham, every political appointee, every department head, every government employee; every member of the CNMI Legislature and the U.S. Congress; and all of their staffers.  Furthermore, if these elected officials and appointees are unwilling to act in moral and ethical manner; routinely engage in cover-ups and lie to the public; put their re-election ambitions before doing what is in the best interest of the people; and dole out  favors that benefit political allies then they should expect criticism and public outrage. Dishonorable officials too often attack the messenger or bully and threaten those who disagree with them instead of engaging in civilized discussion to come to an agreement or simply and respectfully agreeing to disagree.

When government officials and employees break laws and violate the public trust another line is crossed. Citizens expect and deserve to have full disclosure and see government officials that cross legal lines held accountable. They should leave office, face sanctions (such as being disbarred), be prosecuted or face a combination of these or other consequences.

Case in point is Attorney General Buckingham as quoted by the Saipan Tribune in one of his typical whines:
Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham lashed out yesterday against Public Auditor Mike Pai and CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan, saying both “will never miss an opportunity, even without merit, to attack me and the governor.”

Buckingham was particularly incensed by Sablan's statement relating to the Office of the Inspector General report that the people of the CNMI “can have little confidence that the Office of the Attorney General will press charges or seek recovery of funds.”

Buckingham said he was limited by law as to his comment because he received a report labeled “privileged and confidential” and limited to “official use.”
Is he talking about the Investigatory Report issued by the Office of the Department of Interior that exposes corruption involving him, Governor Fitial and Michael Ada's ARRA contract?  If so the "privileged and confidential" report is online. That is where I got it from to post on this site. Or is he talking about the OPA report that was released only to the governor and AG that the public should have access to, but is being withheld from the public?

The Saipan Tribune reported from a press release (press release from the AGO?):
Buckingham was particularly incensed by Sablan's statement relating to the Office of the Inspector General report that the people of the CNMI “can have little confidence that the Office of the Attorney General will press charges or seek recovery of funds.”
Incensed by the truth? Does that mean that the AG is going to take appropriate action to correct the violations?  If AG Buckingham doesn't think that he, the governor and Ada don't deserve attacks, then he is delusional. These three corrupt musketeers should take responsibility for violating CNMI laws. All unspent CNMI ARRA funds should be returned to the federal government. All misspent ARRA funds should be recovered. No more grants should be issued to this corrupt government.

Buckingham is the Attorney General of the CNMI, yet he feels he is above the law (see Election Gate and Vendetta Gate) and he allows the governor and the governor's appointees or pals to violate laws. What kind of attorney general is this? Shouldn't he be disbarred, if not forced to resign?  This attorney general's excuses for why he allowed a contract that violated a series of the CNMI's ethic and procurement laws to slide on by are pathetically flawed. An effective and law-abiding attorney general would have stopped the contract because it violates law rather than making up lame excuses to justify violating laws.

By the AG's reasoning anyone can violate CNMI law if it serves a better purpose. Hungry? No problem. According to the CNMI AG's logic one can rob a store in the CNMI for food because a law can be violated in order to "balance interests." After hunger, hunger is a serious interest.  I suppose one could rationalize breaking any law using the AG's logic. Or do excuses for violating CNMI laws only apply to elected or appointed officials. Frightening much?

How disingenuous that Buckingham tries to deflect his own violations by attacking Public Auditor Michael Pai. The AG also suggests the problems were created by Ada, but fails to acknowledge his participation and that of Governor Fitial. He states:
“I do believe, personally, that Mike Ada put the governor and the Commonwealth in a very difficult situation by leaving government service and then contracting privately for his services. That was unfortunate but it's a choice Mr. Ada made.”
Buckingham should re-read the DOI Inspector General's Report. The governor and the AG both have significant roles in this corrupt deal:
In August 2010, Ada informed Fitial of his intent to leave the government. Ada and Fitial discussed privatizing Ada’s duties of managing CNMI’s ARRA projects and funds. During Ada’s final month in office, at Fitial’s direction, Ada prepared the service contract for management of ARRA funds for award. Ada and Fitial dispute who first brought up the idea of a private contract to manage CNMI’s ARRA projects. Both agree, however, that they developed the Integrated Professional Services (IPS) contract while Ada was in office. 
Ada resigned from his position as Secretary of Commerce on October 8, 2010. On October 12, 2010, a $392,406 service contract (Contract 525276-OC) was approved for the not-yet-formed IPS to manage CNMI’s ARRA projects and grants. The contract was officially awarded on October 13, 2010. On October 14, 2010, Ada and his business partner obtained a business license for IPS. Based on Fitial’s justification, the contract was awarded as a sole-source award. Based on another justification from Fitial, CNMI advanced IPS $78,418. The contract was funded with administrative funds from ARRA awards. 
To fund the enhanced reporting and administrative requirements placed on recipients of ARRA funds, the Act includes a provision that allows recipients to add an additional 0.5 percent to their negotiated indirect cost rates for ARRA awards. Ada explained that his former governmental ARRA oversight office was funded solely with these administrative funds. 
Attorney General Edward Buckingham and Director of Procurement and Supply Herman Sablan reviewed the determination to award the contract as a sole-source award to IPS. Buckingham acknowledged that ethics concerns existed and that Ada had a conflict of interest. He thought, however, that the need for the contract outweighed ethics concerns. Sablan said he felt that the sole source award was justified because the justification indicated that the Attorney General reviewed the document. He acknowledged that he simply relied on the Attorney General’s opinion rather than his own review of the document.
Let's assume that no federal laws were broken, and that is why the DOJ will not be prosecuting.  Then at the very least perhaps the ARRA oversight agency could collect the $78,418 that Ada was advanced and any other funds that were federal tax dollars that were misspent in this scheme.


Anonymous said...

Worst AG Ever.