Fitial Partying Trip Photos Irk CNMI Citizens

August 2, 2011



On July 5, 2011 the Saipan Tribune reported on the Fitial trip that the governor, his wife, press secretary Angel Demapan and others from the CNMI would be taking to Japan, San Francisco, Washington DC, Utah and Pohnpei. All of the stops on the world-wide trip were for official business except for Japan, which Fitial stated was a trip for him to have a coronary angiogram.

On August 1, after the governor arrived back in Saipan, reporter Haidee V. Eugenio summed up the trip in an article, Fitial wraps up almost a month of off-island travel, that described the itinerary.

 From the Tribune:
The governor's first stop was to Nagoya, Japan where he was to have a coronary angiogram.

However, the Fitial administration has yet to confirm whether such procedure was done.
I doubt that the procedure was done. Tonight someone sent me some photos of the trip that were posted on CNMI First Lady Josie Fitial's Facebook pages. Photos of the trip showed Fitial and others at meetings, visiting a young woman and newborn at a hospital, and eating at various locations.

The photos illustrate just what an extravagant trip it was.  I went to the site to look at the photo albums myself. There were photos from trips to Boston, various cities in California, Utah, Washington, DC, Arizona, Japan, Canada and other places from 2010 to 2011.  The photos showed side trips that included a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, tours, Pier 39 in San Francisco, and a boat outing in Canada. There were photos of luxurious hotel suites and the governor with a variety of people at posh restaurants (like The Palm in Washington DC) enjoying what appeared to be the most expensive menu items. There were photos from Japan with what appeared to be officials or businessmen, photos from California with former Governor Juan Babuata and others enjoying a feast at a trendy restaurant, and photos from Washington, DC. that showed a casual picnic and other events.

Prior to Ada being awarded the ARRA contract, Governor Fitial and former Secretary of Commerce were traveling companions on many CNMI-paid trips: August 2010 to California, May 2010 to a California conference, March 2010 to Washington DC, February 2010 to Washington, DC, and July 2009 to the Micronesian Chiefs' Summit in Majuro.  Ada also travelled to Washington, DC as Insurance Commissioner in September 2010.

The Saipan Tribune reported:
Among those in the photos were the governor, the first lady, special assistant for budget and management Vicky Villagomez, special assistant for administration Esther Fleming, acting Commerce secretary Sixto Igisomar, press secretary Demapan, former governor and now special adviser Juan N. Babauta and former Commerce secretary and now ARRA management contractor Michael Ada, among other individuals.
A comment on a July 2010 Marianas Variety story:
+40 #14 EloyInos4Governor July 02, 2010 05:41PM
Did you know that Governor Fitial likes ordering steaks and lobster when on official travel to the U.S. mainland? Yes folks, the CNMI taxpayers pay when the governor wants to wine and dine.

Would somebody ask Finance for a copy of the governor's travel report and reimbursement requests?
I have no idea who EloyInos4Governor is, but I always wondered why this person puts a comment like this one on every story about a Fitial trip. Photos from Mrs. Fitial's facebook show why these comments always appear. It seems on the latest month-long trip and on previous trips taken with former Commerce Secretary Ada and others at every restaurant lobster, crab, and steak were the choice meal selections and champagne and wine flowed.

Other concerned citizens expressed outrage as reported in the Marianas Variety:
Concerned citizen Ed Propst said the CNMI is broke, and it is disgusting to see the governor and other administration officials eating five-pound lobsters.

A resident, who declined to be identified, agreed. “It’s disgusting and he should be deeply ashamed along with every other government employee who unnecessarily travels, eats, and drives on the taxpayer’s tab. But there is a deep sense of shameless entitlement among government [officials] of all kind. Legislators, judges, and executive branch alike, and this makes it very easy for them to justify their choices. With one hand they take from us, and with the other they take for themselves as long as taxpayers allow, it will certainly continue.”

“While the CNMI burns, the privileged few party in San Francisco and D.C. and Japan,” said another resident.

Here are some photos from Facebook page that show the food and company on some trips from 2010 and the July 2011 marathon trip:

July 2011 Trip Japan

Japan July 2011


July 2011 Trip Japan

February 2011 Trip to Washington and California
Japan Trip July 2011

Washington DC Trip
Angel Demapan February 2011 Trip
California July 2011 trip
Washington DC and California Trip February 25, 2011
July 2011 San Francisco

San Francisco July 2011

Hotel Suite 

Press Secretary Angel Demapan, pictured above enjoying a lobster dinner, told the Tribune that any expenses over the $250 per day per diem were picked up by the governor. The Tribune reported:
The email sent by “CNMI Watchdog” takes issue with the officials' expensive dinner due to the CNMI government's financial quagmire and delayed payrolls.
“Just when we can't afford to pay vendors, we can't afford to make payroll, we can't get our tax rebate/refunds, but they can eat steak and lobster? It is certainly not against the law but it must be nice... Maybe it's time for government per diem to be adjusted? But who is going to be upset about this,” the email asks.
Early this year, the governor and other officials traveled to Washington, D.C. and San Francisco on official business. In July, the governor and other officials also traveled to the nation's capital and San Francisco, as well as Utah and Pohnpei, on official business.
Demapan said the established per diem rate for San Francisco in California and Washington, D.C. is $250 a day. This includes expenses for hotel and meals.
“Any cost incurred above the established rate is paid for by personal funds. Thus, we had all spent much personal funds given that most of our per diem funds were exhausted on hotel costs, given the higher median price of lodging in both California and Washington, D.C.,” he added.

I was going to download some other photos, but it seems that all of the photos were removed from the Facebook site. Most likely the pages were taken down after some photos were emailed to the local newspapers and reporters asked the Governor's Office for a statement.

Perhaps a Facebook page is not the best place to display photos showing CNMI leaders partying while government employees have had hours cut because of "austerity" measures and empty CNMI coffers. Photos put on Facebook are public domain unless hidden by private settings. Secretary Demapan may not understand that, as was suggested by some bizarre comments that he made to the Marianas Variety:
Demapan accused the wife of Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan’s chief of staff of lifting the photos from the Facebook account of the governor’s wife.
Demapan said “it is appalling that such a deceptive act will be dignified by the media.”The media should resort to fair means only when obtaining news, documents or photos, he said.
Facebook is a social networking service with close to 800 million active users.
“I have received information earlier today that Jude Marfil-Schwalbach, the wife of Bob Schwalbach, chief of staff of Delegate Kilili, originated email distribution of photos lifted without consent from a social network profile belonging to the first lady,” Demapan said.
“This is the same type of action that led to the demise of Rupert Murdoch’s news corporation. Everyone and all media services should have learned from the mistakes of Mr. Murdoch’s company,” he added.

Again Facebook photos are public domain unless the page owner uses privacy settings to hide them. Photos of notorious accused murderer Casey Anthony partying while her child was missing were taken from her Facebook page. Many employers scan prospective employees' Facebook pages looking for indications of inappropriate or compromising behavior in comments and photos before they hire new recruits.

Demapan is extremely ignorant to compare publicly published photos to the Murdoch scandal where private accounts and phone lines were hacked. He is also unwise to accuse the wife of a congressional staffer. I received the photos and they were not from her or anyone even remotely affiliated with Congressman Sablan. Is Demapan so paranoid or so poisoned by hatred of the distinguished Congressman that he assumes the exposure should be attributed to him, or a staff member's wife? Or maybe that lobster photo of him made him feel guilty of enjoying luxury when folks in the CNMI are scrapping by for money to buy mere basics like rice? Is there anyone in the Fitial Administration that can accept responsibility rather than trying to blame someone else?

It is also incredible that a press secretary would say, "The media should resort to fair means only when obtaining news, documents or photos." Fair means? Taking photos that were put out to the public is not unusual and not unfair.  This administration is famous for secrecy, hidden agendas, concealing information, hiding documents, twisting the truth, outlandish excuses for violating laws, and backdoor deals. Every action that a public official takes can be considered news, even those that show poor judgment.  Investigative reporting helps expose corruption unethical behavior and actions of excess that are in poor taste.  

38 comments:

Green Cards for All! said...

It's Pier 39 (not Pier 59) in San Francisco. Next time you're crossing the Pacific, why not make a free stop-over in the Bay Area? I'll take you out there. By public transportation, of course, and probably with brown-bag lunches.

Wendy Doromal said...

Thanks Green Cards -I'll fix that -bad eyes for sure! I'll take you up on that and I'll provide the brown bag lunch. Teachers know how to cook great food on a budget!

Anonymous said...

No wonder the guv has a heart problem. He eats like a pig!

Hey Angel, you owe apologies to the Congressman and his staff. Hot headed and unprofessional. Got a lobster shell stuck in your throat?

Anonymous said...

That's right folks, you can't just eat in a nice restaurant anymore. The blogger trolls are out in force. How pathetic and desperate. Better not catch Kilili and his 'staff' having a nice meal anywhere. I heard DC restaurants are big $$$.

Anonymous said...

Noni 3:57
You miss all of the relevant points--
1. People are literally starving in the CNMI. So much so that Delegate Sablan had to beg for more food stamp money from the feds.
2. The governor and his allies enjoy the good life while the CNMI is burning.
3. Let's see the receipts for these trips and I mean every trip for the last 3 years. Let's see if $1 a contract Juan Babauta got a per diem and for how much. In fact, let's see all those receipts for Siemer, Willens and all the consultants!
4. This isn't about Kilili. It's about Fitial and his corrupt administration. I would guess if Kilili is wining and dining bunches of folks it will be revealed also.
5. The kill the messenger stupidity is old. Get a real argument.
6. Yep, those DC restaurants are big bucks. Angel and Mike's meals at The Palms in DC came to over $75 each.
7. Government waste at the expense of taxpayers is wrong.
8. I don't believe Fitial paid for anything over the "per diem". Does Josie get $250 a day per diem for each trip? Show us receipts.
9. Who were all of the people who went on the July 2011 trip and how did each activity benefit the CNMI? This governor doesn't even report outcomes. What was he in Japan for? Was this leg of the trip funded by CNMI?

Anonymous said...

Just because a person is given $250 per diem per day does that mean it all has to be spent? Could someone actually book a less expensive hotel and eat a $15 meal out? Is the per diem rate too high? At any rate, it's poor taste to order lobster when on official business unless the entire meal is paid for by the host or hostess. What taxpayer wants to see officials eating lobster and steak and drinking expensive wines on their dime?

Anonymous said...

The MV writes:
"Demapan said for every single trip they took, the per diem was never equal to how much they actually pay for lodging and meals so they always end up digging their own pockets.

He said they are not reimbursed for these extra costs.

“If we spend beyond $250, we have to get it from individual pockets. All the time, we had to use our own money and that is the sacrifice we make as public servants,” he added."

Please someone, give me a tissue...poor, public servants having to use their own money to eat 5 pound lobsters that cost $25 a pound. Hell, my salary isn't that much for a whole day!

Anonymous said...

Demapan is a jackass and not qualified to be a press secretary. What dumb statements. He may be putting lobster in but bs is coming out.

Anonymous said...

Most of these guys need a diet not more food!

Anonymous said...

This may not be illegal depending on if the meals were actually paid "from pockets" and not CNMI funds. Still the lack of prudence and common sense at flaunting the good meals to the hungry in the NMI is unwise and insulting. I guess it's a "let them eat bread" attitude.

Anonymous said...

Illegal, maybe not. DISRESPECTFUL, absolutely!

Anonymous said...

Why are all these people on this trip? What were their roles? It seems some were there to eat only. Was it a traveling party from city to city? And why does the first lady take photos of all the food unless even she knows it is extra special.

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:00
I think it's "let them eat cake."

Anonymous said...

You can always tell if Angel is in the NMI. The negative button on the Marianas Variety comments gets multiple hits. Get to work Demapan!

Anonymous said...

Is Fitial's discretionary fund paid for by taxpayers also a deep pocket?

Anonymous said...

Why is Demapan blaming Kilili's office? The photos were posted by Josie Fitial. Blame her.

Anonymous said...

This just illustrates what is wrong with the entire political system. Our leaders are the elite and they have no hearts or consciences. They are selfish and blinded by power. The rest can starve and die as long as they are well fed and making money. They are destroying our society and we are letting them. Every week another scandal in the CNMI is told and who does anything? we only talk . Who is going to file the OGA request? Isn't it odd that the papers write about this but they never even investigate after the initial excitement? Why don't the papers or KSPN file OGA requests routinely like US papers do? Where are the investigative reporters?

Anonymous said...

with those kind of food, no wonder their cholesterol(bad) is going high. then they will get sick, then they will need medication, then they have to travel elsewhere for the treatment. therefore, the $$$$ will be coming out from CNMI's fund. ai adai!

Anonymous said...

Ed Probst for governor!

Anonymous said...

That photo of Mike Ada ready to devour that lobster is a classic already!

Anonymous said...

Ed Probst would be a better Commisioner of DPS.
Tina Sablan will get my vote as Governor.

Anonymous said...

So did the governor get a medical referral for a test he didn't have? Was that just a story about the angiogram? Anyone knows who the Japanese businessmen with Fitial are?

Anonymous said...

Lobster-gate?

Rick said...

Some things never change!

Saipan Tribune
Letters to the Editor
Friday, March 18, 2005
"And I thought the govt doesn't have money?"

According to a recent article in the Marianas Variety, PSS and the Board of Education are giving two Marianas High School staff an all-expense paid excursion to the nation's capital, spending over $8,500 in only two days (not including flight time, layovers, stopovers, etc.). I'm puzzled how two lower-level employees of the CNMI government are authorized to blow that much cash on a-here comes a bad word-junket ('cause that's what it is, right?) when even our very own governor is cutting back on these types of excursions (even though he did send the attorney general in his place).

I'm assuming the aforementioned employees are flying first-class, staying at a first class hotel (let's say, the Watergate) and traveling to and from the convention via chauffeured limo. For $8,500 they better bring back a heck of a lot of souvenirs, seeing as their spending money runs to $1,350-each-per day! Sweet grandmother's spatula! That's a lot of “I (heart) D.C.” T-shirts! And a whole lot of mini-Lincoln Memorials and White House postcards, too!

Here's a revolutionary idea: budget the trip! Whoa! You mean actually fly coach, stay at a youth hostel, and experience D.C.'s fine Metro subway system? And while they're at it forgo the champagne and caviar and actually eat at Subway! Or Mickey D's, you get the point. Basically, they'd only rack up around $4,000 or less. Can't be done? Or can it? If they really have to, they can sell plate lunches on Beach Road or do car washes, that sort of thing. Like other school groups do to raise funds for off-island trips. And give the money back to PSS to buy books, school supplies, that sort of thing. Maybe remit some payments to their vendors.

Better yet, give me the $8,500 or so. I'll spend it right here on Saipan. You see, I have not had a full time job in six months (what's referred to in today's job market as “long-term unemployment”) and could use that $8,500 (or the balance of $4,500 saved by the counselors flying coach) to pay rent, my car loan, groceries, gas, utilities etc. I'll personally account for every penny of it, too. I might eat at Subway myself.

Rick Vaughn
Fina Sisu, Saipan

============================
Saipan Tribune
Letters to the Editor
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Rein in vivid imagination

I am writing to respond to the letter by Rick Vaughn last week, which criticized a trip taken by two Public School System employees to Washington, D.C. He imagined that they flew first class, stayed at the Watergate Hotel, and rode in a chauffeured limousine to the conference.

In reality, they flew coach on the approximately 12-hour flight from Narita to Detroit and then on to D.C. They stayed at the Days Inn, and they rode the Metro bus and the subway.
I know this because I know the people who took the trip and talked to one of them. I also called PSS Central office and had it confirmed by the acting commissioner.

The trip was federally funded, and the CNMI was required to send staff as part of the Bush administration’s "No Child Left Behind" initiative.

I hope Mr. Vaughn, who seems to have a vivid imagination and a lot of time on his hands, will do his own fact checking before writing any more fanciful letters to the editor.

Vicki King Taitano
Capitol Hill

Anonymous said...

I would agree that everything the Gov spends must be on budget. However, HATERS are HATERS. Let the guy eat good food when he's in the mainland. People are so judgmental and negative. Have you never eaten good food at a restaurant? Have u never taken a picture of your food or of people and close friends enjoying their food? I mean come on. The Gov has $$$. He doesn't need his government paycheck or government travel funds to travel or dine. Geez its just food! I've had steak and lobster myself. Stop generalizing that ALL people in Saipan are poor and starving. We have a lot of rich folks out here who live GRANDER lives. Thanks to the Federal Gov't for supplying our most neediest with foodstamps...enough to buy rice. If you're about to spit more ammo, at least do them in a TASTEFUL manner.

Anonymous said...

Noni 5:24 People can eat whatever they want but on a GOVERNMENT FUNDED TRIP THEY MUST SHOW RESTRAINT AND RESPECT! It is disrespectful to claim the gvt. is poor and cut gvt. salaries and at same time have 5 or more people trotting around the world on the gvt. dime. For what? What did they contribute? Were these trips even necessary? Why did all of these people need to be on the trips?

Want to eat like kings on a gvt, trip? Go ahead, but don't post photos and flaunt it. Show us the receipts and how they REALLY paid for the feasts. Now that would be TASTEFUL!

Did anyone say ALL people in Saipan are poor? No but the majority of the people are. Delegate Sablan just begged for food stamp money because so many people in the CNMI are POOR. Guess what? The federal gvt. is not a food bank or a piggy bank for the CNMI. The stock market just crashed. The CNMI is not going to be getting much $$$$ You like us being a welfare state? Not ashamed?

Anonymous said...

Isn't that Juan Nekai Babauta, former CNMI Governor and anti-Federalization champion?

Anonymous said...

Disgusting. Even if it is not illegal, it is reprehensible that this useless entourage would even be traveling now, let alone spend gobs of money on $200 lobster dinners, while residents of the CNMI have been suffering tremendously under this horrible administration.

The Saipan Blogger said...

Amazing that they didn't learn anything from Joe Camacho's littering on the graves of American heroes last year. Simply amazing.

Anonymous said...

Noni 5:24

I agree that they should've shown more restraint and respect being that they were traveling in a gov't funded trip. That I agree with you. It is a shame that governors and other gov't officials have been doing this for YEARS!!! And when it comes to Gov. Fitial people are so fast to point fingers at HIM for being so cruel as if no other officials have done this before. Killili did exactly the same thing as well in DC. He is the “HUNGRIEST man in the house” – dubbed as one of the biggest $$$penders on catering, meals, etc.! (Check the news).

It's such a shame that our Gov'r should watch his every meal off-island, etc. because his people are starving. I did not see one picture of him holding a huge lobster with 2 thumbs up. Totally reminds me of the book Atlas Shrugged when the rich and successful have to suffer for the "looters" on welfare.

People would only consider that Josy is flaunting the pictures because they are haters and jealous. What Josy or others may consider simply uploading nice photos can seem so OUTRAGEOUS to others. Looking at the photos, it seems that she does like taking pictures of food. Is it a crime to take picture of food?

Ben has been wining and dining like this for years, even before he became a Congressman or Governor. Why should he suffer to the likes of the poor masses? Although I do not agree to us censuring him for his habits, I do agree that everything must be spent on BUDGET. Steak and lobsters are tempting, but I could settle for a McD’s meal as well if I’m not entertaining gov’t/business officials. Let me rephrase my statement, I did not say that ALL people in Saipan are poor. I meant to say that people act as if everyone is dying on this island (could barely buy a sack of rice). They COULD AFFORD to buy a sack of rice thanks to foodstamps. The wheel of fortune works in mysterious ways. Kilili just begged for food stamps for the people? Well they should try to get out of being POOR and stop relying on the gov't to fix their lives. They are so content on receiving free money from the CNMI or Fed Gov't. Why not get up and find some work - in the U.S. or back where they came from? The Federal Gv't is a food bank/piggy bank because we rely on them TOO much. I’m sure critics would shut their mouths if they were given more free $$$ to buy food.

Now, I have to think twice before posting pics of food up lest I may look like a show-off when everyone is suffering.

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 8:29

Not all poor people get food stamps. Food stamps are issued only to U.S. citizens. There are at least 16,000 de facto citizens in the CNMI who do not have a U.S. citizen immediate relative. The majority of these people make less than $6.00 an hour, far below a living wage. These people ARE hungry. They pay taxes. They do not qualify for food stamps.They are ignored by the people that they serve, the people that brought them to the islands and claim to "need" them. They are ignored by Congressman Sablan who deliberately left them out of H.R. 1466.

It is time for the people of the CNMI to pay taxes to fund their own social programs and fill their own coffers. U.S. taxpayers do not mind helping people who need help, but do mind helping people who say over and over that they hate the United States and waste or abuse any funds that are given to them.

Anonymous said...

oink oink

Anonymous said...

Amen, Wendy! Nicely said. I wasn't aware that all poor people get food stamps. Thus, I take back what I said. If that is the case, then there surely are alot of people suffering. I say cut back on gov't spending.

Anonymous said...

This statement by Noni 5:24 irks me but it speaks highly of Governor Fitial (that he's got it made and too bad for the rest of the CNMI's population:

Ben has been wining and dining like this for years, even before he became a Congressman or Governor. Why should he suffer to the likes of the poor masses?

Anonymous said...

It rings true though. Luxury = bad. It is sad though that the rich get richer and poor get poorer.

Anonymous said...

Noni 8:05 There are no Congressman elected to the CNMI Govt.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what kind of problems this has caused Fitials wife.I wouldn't be surprised if Fitial did not beat her up over this. As he seems like the kind, given his extremes of going after people and families that oppose him. Using threats, jobs, contracts and also payments in and attempt to keep many inline.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this has caused her any problems at all. The pictures are still up, private for the nosy others.I won't be surprised if I see the same kind of pics from Alaska. Threats, jobs ,contract? What wealthy politician has never blackmailed/bribed others to keep them inline? Majority of politicians in this island are crooks