Wikileaks Saipan Leaks OPA Report on AG Buckingham

October 18, 2011

Saipan Wikileaks has released the December 13, 2010 "Report and Recommendation of Ethics Investigation of Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham",  and what a revealing report it is. The report that I received this afternoon through an email, outlines the investigation of Buckingham's violations of election and ethics law concerning hosting of an event for Covenant candidate for the delegate seat for the U.S. House of Representatives, Joseph Camacho. The candidate was backed by Governor Fitial.

As reported previously, the report indicates that the Attorney General violated election and ethics laws.

The Saipan Wikileaks message reads:
Citizens:

The document attached is the report of the CNMI Public Auditor on
the unethical and criminal conduct of CNMI Attorney General Edward
Buckingham. This report has been sealed since December 2010, by
law and by the refusal of the Governor and Attorney General to
release it. To this day, there has been no justice. No one has
been held accountable. Buckingham is still the highest legal
authority in the Commonwealth.

Until the institutions that create and enforce laws are held
accountable we will not live in a just society. As the early
revolutionary, Patrick Henry, noted, "The liberties of a people
never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of
their rulers may be concealed from them."

Principled leaking of information has changed the course of history
for the better. It can alter the course of history in the present,
and it can lead us to a better future.

Our government should be subject to the pressure, not merely of
federal oversight, Open Government Act requests, or even periodic
elections, but of something far stronger - the consciences of the
people within it.

Lux et Veritas,

- Q
Light and truth, indeed. Saipan Wikileaks is doing what the Governor's Office and AG have failed to do – to allow the public to read the important results of the investigation of serious violations of law by the highest law official in the CNMI. I understand that every media outlet has possession of the report, as well as numerous citizens of the CNMI. The report is now public.

The report states that the AG violated criminal prohibitions of the Commonwealth Ethics Code Act, 1 CMC §8501 by using personnel and equipment for political campaign activities and violated 1 CMC § 6705 by using the name of a government agency or department to campaign for a candidate for public office. The maximum penalty for each violation is a $500 fine.

The OPA recommended the following actions be taken by the Governor:

1. Order the AG to make a written public admission of the wrongfulness of his conduct and publicly apologize for causing any loss of public confidence of the 2010 election;
2. Order the AG to completely reimburse the Commonwealth for any and all legal expenses paid by the Commonwealth for the outside counsel hired in this matter;
3. Issue public admonishment to the AG for his criminal actions, and;
4. Release the attached investigative report and this letter to the public.

In his letter to Governor Fitial, the Public Auditor wrote:
"When considering the recommendations above, it is important to bear in mind that the AG is the highest legal authority in the Commonwealth. Criminal acts and disregard for the rule of law, even if the statutory sanctions impose nominal criminal penalties, have the effect of seriously devaluing the public's confidence in it government. Rehabilitating public confidence is an important and difficult process. The recommendations above attempt to strike a balance between punishing unlawful acts and restoring public trust, while also respecting the Executive's choice in legal leadership. Please consider these objectives when reviewing the above recommendations. Nothing limits the imposition of greater sanctions, including suspension or termination, if deemed appropriate. 
Pusuant to 1 CMC § 8562 (b), please report in writing within thirty (30) days of receipt of this letter, the actions taken on these recommendations and, to the extent that you decline to take any recommended action, provide a statement of reasons for the decision."
The Office of the Governor refused to follow the recommended action, and instead began an outright attack on the Office of the Public Auditor, Michael Pai. The Attorney General sued the Office of the Public Auditor. (See these posts, Crossing the Line, Senate to Investigate Election-Gate and Vendetta-Gate, Vendetta-Gate, Indredible Statements, and Vendettta-Gate. )

A June 20, 2011 Saipan Tribune story reported that the OPA report concluded that AG Buckingham violated the law with his unethical election scandal activities last year, but the report would not be released to the public.  (See Election Gate posts for the whole story.)

From the Tribune:
The governor, in an interview on Friday night, said OPA's report on the investigation it conducted on Buckingham's presence at the gathering indicated that Buckingham violated the law.

But Fitial said Buckingham did not violate any law.

The governor said he need not release the OPA report, released in December.

“Buckingham did not violate any law. The report says that he violated. So I proved that he did not violate,” Fitial said.

When asked by Saipan Tribune how the governor arrived at the conclusion that the AG did not violate any law, the governor responded: “Because there's no law barring what Buckingham did.”

This, he said, was contained in his response to the OPA report.

He said OPA responded back.

“Very, very disrespectful,” Fitial said, when asked about OPA's response.
While the governor may deem the OPA disrespectful, many others would think that an Attorney General violating election law is "disrespectful" and a breach of public trust.

The OPA Report reveals that some attendees at the campaign event felt it was wrong. Tina Sakisat the office manager for the OAG told the Attorney General that she was hesitant to ask the staff if they were going to attend a function for Joe Camacho because "she thought it was wrong."

Police officers were assigned to the event. One officer Jeffrey Norita recorded license plate numbers of guests and names of the guest. One guest, AAG Mike Ernest asked that his name be removed from the log book. Another Officer Jeffrey Bahillo stated that about 50 people attended the party and most were from the OAG.

The report concludes that AG Buckingham knew that the event was an event hosted for Candidate Joe Camacho and was a political event. It also states that Freida Demapan was assigned by the AG to plan the function during working hours and Tina Sakisat was told to inform staff during working hours to attend the political gathering.

The investigator recommended disciplinary action against the AG or to charge him with 1 violation of Commonwealth Election Law 1CMC §6750(a) and 1 CMC §8534(b), and or two (2) make the Investigative Report Public and/or to answer the charges against him.

The report indicates that prosecution was deferred "due to economic concerns." Seriously? After all of the waste there are not enough funds to prosecute?

In addition to violations of the CNMI law it is clear that the AG violated the Hatch Act.

It seems that at the very least AG Buckingham should have apologized and resigned. The CNMI Bar should investigate these violations.  Other attorneys who violate the law are disbarred. The Attorney General who is the "highest legal authority" in the CNMI should be enforcing and upholding the law and not violating the law.

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Time for Buckingham to step down, before he is removed. Freida Demapan and T. Sakisat had more courage than Bucky, as did the four AAG's who questioned the partisan political event.

Acting Governor Inos should fire him immediately if he refuses to resign.