Buckingham: three years of scandals

August 11, 2012

A chronology of significant events during the three year tenure of Attorney General Edward Buckingham:

August 2009 Governor Benigno Fitial nominated Edward Buckingham as Attorney General. He was unanimously confirmed by the CNMI Senate days later.

January 8, 2010: The Governor of the CNMI, Benigno Fitial, ordered that Qingmei Cheng, his masseuse, be released from jail where she was being held on federal human trafficking charges.  The DOC Corrections Commissioner, Dolores Aldan and three DOC officials accompanied the prisoner to the governor's house. It was claimed that she gave the governor a massage and then was returned to her prison cell. The DOC Commissioner did not notify the defendant's attorney or the Court that she was removing the prisoner from the jail. She claimed that she tried unsuccessfully to contact the U.S. Marshall Service and the Office of the Attorney General. The transport of the prisoner to the governor's mansion allegedly took place around 3:00 am. AG Buckingham represented all officials involved in the case making outlandish statements in their defense.

March 2010: Criminal Vicente Aldan received political favors as he was awarded weekend furloughs and special consideration in his case by the OAG.

March 2010: AAG George Hasselback leave OAG. AG Buckingham claims it was because of the Aldan case.

March 2010: Federal and CNMI Governments argued over who had authority to revoke umbrella permits. AG Buckingham  incorrectly claimed that the CNMI retained that right.

April 2010: AG Buckingham, legal counsel of the parole board joined the board in granting parole to serious repeat offenders under questionable conditions, such as being required to compose a song for school children.

April 2010: AG Buckingham was targeted for giving special favors to Fitial Administration pals such as in the case of  violent offender Vicente Aldan, husband of former Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, Delores Aldan who approved releasing the federal prisoner to give the governor his massage. More here.

April 2010: AG Buckingham defended unconstitutional law PL 17-1.

April 2010: Attorneys in the OAG described a "climate of fear" as more attorneys resigned, some calling the OAG "toxic.".

July 2010: AG Buckingham joined other Republican attorneys generals to submit a legal brief supporting Arizona in their anti-immigrant lawsuit, which was challenged by the courts.

July 2010: The OAG was said to be the cause of delay in DPS getting its sex offender registry online.

August 2010: AG Buckingham and the OAG "sponsored" a political campaign event for Covenant Party Joseph Camacho at the Governor's mansion using public resources in violation of CNMI and federal laws.

September 2010: Individuals and elected leaders called for an investigation of AG Buckingham and the OAG's hosting of a campaign event for Joseph Camacho.

October 2010: CNMI Attorney General Buckingham approved a sole-source ARRA contract to former Commerce Secretary Michael Ada even before his company, Integrated Professional Solutions had a business license.

May 2011: An exodus of attorneys from the OAG took place since Buckingham took office. As of May 2011 it was eleven. Attorneys within the OAG were quoted: "The AG will terminate them for exposing his lies to the public."and  “If the highest legal officer is willing to lie to the public about petty internal conflicts, he is willing to lie to the public about anything.”

June 2011: An OPA report on the investigation of AG Buckingham's alleged illegal activities related to the 2010 election was released only to the governor and Buckingham. Both offices refused to make the report public.

June 2011: AG Buckingham announced he would be suing the Office of the Public Auditor concerning the fact that the office hired an attorney.

July 2011: The Department of Interior Inspector General released a report outlining violations of law in awarding the ARRA contract to Michael Ada's IPS. The reports stated, "The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands declined prosecution of this investigation." The report also states, "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."

August 2011: The CNMI Supreme Court ordered Attorney General Edward Buckingham to a show-cause hearing to reveal why he should not be sanctioned for failing to file a response brief in the appeal case of Simon Sebuu. The brief was due on or before May 11, 2011. On June 3, 2011 the Clerk of Court notified the OAG that the brief was overdue. A motion to submit an out-of-time brief was filed on June 6, 2011 by the OAG. The Court denied the motion.

August 2011 CNMI Senators called for CNMI Bar to investigate AG Buckingham for ethics violations.

September 2011: CNMI Supreme Court Associate Justice John Manglona sanctioned AG Buckingham  in the amount of $300 for the Office of the Attorney General's failure to file on time a response brief to an appeal in a criminal case.

October  2011:leaked the OPA Report detailed the Attorney General's violations of CNMI law during the 2010 election. The report recommended disciplinary action, charges for violation CNMI law, making the report public and/or having Attorney General Edward Buckingham answer the charges.

October 2011: In an apparent response to the leaked OPA report, AG Buckingham filed charges against the wife and mother-in-law of Public Auditor Michael Pai claiming "theft of utilities." That case was dismissed by the judge.

October 2011: A letter from the Office of Special Counsel stated that AG Buckingham's actions in the 2010 election suggest that he violated the Hatch Act.

November 2011: AG Buckingham hired private attorneyAnthony Long at the taxpayers expense to defend himself against violations of CNMI law regarding illegal campaign activities during the 2010 election. The cost of defending himself against Hatch Act and OPA complaints cost the government $12,940.

December 2011: AG Buckingham declared that Police Officer Jesse Dubrall was acting "within the scope of his duty" when he brutality beat an innocent foreign workers in a case of mistaken identity.

December 2011: AG Buckingham defended Governor Fitial's action of cutting the hours of federally funded employees even though federal officials opposed the cuts and said such action may impact federal funding.

January 2012: AG Buckingham announced that he will file a lawsuit against DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to block issuing parole to foreign workers. A month later Buckingham announced that the planned suit was dropped.

January 2012: AG Buckingham promoted discrimination at the federally funded NAP, food stamp office claiming, ""Unemployed aliens crowd the food stamp rolls and when ceilings are reached, local U.S. citizens cannot receive aid as no new recipients can be added to the rolls. Distressed aliens who have been abused in illegal work situations, often by foreign employers, seek help. Private social service organizations run out of resources and are not available to assist local U.S. citizens."

April 2012: DPS Commissioner Ramon C. Mafnas was put on leave while the Office of the Attorney General investigated claims of harassment, death threats and assaults on foreign workers; interfering in the murder investigation of Emie Romero; and illegal seizures of foreign workers' drivers licenses. AG Buckingham declared that Chief of Police Ramon Mafnas did not violate any law. 

April 2012: AG Buckingham fired AAG Michael Ernest.

June 28, 2012: CNMI Attorney General Edward Buckingham bought one way tickets to San Francisco for his wife and himself with a departure date of August 5, 2012. (KSPN News)

August 1, 2012: Buckingham publicly announced his resignation as Attorney General of the CNMI. He gave a tearful interview on KSPN. He stated that after he used 30 vacation days, he would be resigning as the Attorney General. He announced that he would be heading for San Francisco with his wife. Apparently no one in the OAG was assigned his responsibilities while he was using his vacation time, and maintaining his title.

August 2, 2012; Buckingham continued interviews with the press. As if he knew what was coming, he emphasizes his innocence in violations he allegedly committed in the 2010 election and in the ARRA contract. (See Marianas Variety, AG Resigns by Kevin Bautista and the Saipan Tribune, Buckingham: No Apologies by Haidee Eugenio.)

August 3, 2012:  Buckingham announced that this would be his last day of work in the CNMI. Shortly after 11:00 am the Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) filed charges against the Attorney General in the Superior Court and a penal summons was issued for Buckingham to appear in court on August 6, 2012. It stated that if he did not appear a warrant could be issued for his arrest. Sometime on that same day the Delta Airline tickets were changed to an August 4th departure date. (KSPN News August 10, 2012 report) This appears to have been an obvious attempt to exit the CNMI before the summons could be served.

For 15 hours AG Buckingham, aided by his wife and a squad of uniformed, on-duty, high-ranking DPS and Ports Authority officers evade investigators who attempt to serve the summons.

August 4, 2012:  At about 5:00am two FBI agents finally broke through the security force provided by and funded by the CNMI government to serve AG Buckingham with the court summons at the Saipan International Airport.  Buckingham made the choice to break the law flying to Narita, Japan to catch a connecting flight to San Francisco instead of staying in Saipan to appear in court.

August 5, 2012: AG Buckingham spoke to Governor Fitial over the phone and declared he will not resign. Fitial rescinded Buckingham's resignation. The CNMI became only state or territory with a governor-endorsed fugitive-criminal attorney general.

August 6, 2012: Attorney General Buckingham failed to appear in court. He sent AAG Brinbrich to represent him. Superior Court Judge David Wiseman questioned the OAG representing AG Buckingham in a criminal case. Judge Wiseman issued a bench warrant for the arrest of AG Buckingham and set bail at $50,000.

August 6, 2012: AAG George Hasselback of the OPA filed amended information in Superior Court adding two charges to the 5 charges previously filed against Buckingham.

August 7, 2012: Senate President Paul Manglona wrote a letter to Governor Fitial asking him to answer questions about the government-funded escort service provided for the Buckingham to aide in his obstruction of justice; to request that Buckingham be suspended without pay; that Buckingham be immediately arrested; that no government money be spent to pay for Buckingham's attorney's fees.

August 9, 2012: Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations chair Senator Frank Cruz announced an inquiry to DPS and the Ports Authority on the misuse of public personnel, funds, resources to obstruct justice by preventing AG Buckingham from being served with the court summons. He also requested an investigation of any assault on KSPN 2 reporter Tina Sablan.

August 10, 2012: CNMI House members across party lines penned a resolution requesting the Governor to accept the AG's immediate and permanent resignation.

August 11, 2012: Governor Fitial stated he will not answer the Senate President's letter and told the press that he "wants AG Buckingham back".

August 11, 2012: The Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations formally requested that the heads of the Department of Public Safety and the Commonwealth Ports Authority to initiate a “full internal investigation” on the escort service of the Buckinghams and any obstruction of justice violations.


Anonymous said...

You just can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

Edward Buckingham resigned again. Corrupted Fitial accepted his resignation again and appointed Viola Alepuyo as acting AG because FITIAL impeachment talks brewing. Waiting to see what does it end. Endless scandal in CNMI.

Anonymous said...

Former AG Buckingham was confirmed by the CNMI Senate on Friday, August 14, 2009 (not the 13th as you wrote) and sworn in at the cabinet meeting on Monday, August 17, 2009.

Buckingham did not give “continued interviews with the press” on Thursday, August 2, 2012. It is very clear that the sole interview was the day before.

The CNMI print media like to “milk” their big stories to get an extra few days out of them. The initial Tribune article at the bottom expressly says “(To be continued tomorrow: On the issues involving OPA, the 2010 election and the ARRA contract, among other things.)” http://www.saipantribune.com/newsstory.aspx?newsID=120864&cat=1

Likewise, he did not “announce” on Friday, August 3, 2012 that it was his last day of work. He “had announced” that two days earlier.

You might want to slightly edit those parts of your blog for accuracy.

His last couple of days were undoubtedly hectic enough as they were.

I had not seen before the KSPN report that Buckingham had bought his one-way ticket on Thursday, June 28, 2012. Thank you!

I would not be surprised in the least if a thorough physical exam disclosed neurological and other medical issues.

Wendy Doromal said...

5:12 In two different articles there are two different dates for his confirmation. I'll take the day out!

Actually, the rest I am leaving. I did not say that on August 3rd he announced he was leaving. I said he announced that August 3rd was his last day of work! It was. My goodness really?

Anonymous said...

Wendy, anonymous 5:12 could be a lawyer, he's trying to TECHNICAL your events...LOL!