An attorney general being charged with criminal crimes is unheard of in the CNMI.
With the Office of Public Auditor's filing of criminal charges against AG Edward T. Buckingham, assistant attorney general Gilbert Birnbrich characterized the case as novel. Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman elevated the characterization to bizarre.
A lot of people, particularly non-lawyers, are wondering what authority OPA has in investigating and prosecuting AG Buckingham.
Saipan Tribune yesterday learned about Public Law 3-91, 406. The law's Referrals: Criminal Action (b), states that “If the Public Auditor has reasonable grounds to believe the Governor or Attorney General has violated federal or Commonwealth criminal law, the Public Auditor may use the legal counsel for the office of the Public Auditor or retain special counsel who shall serve as an assistant attorney general for purposes of investigating and prosecuting, if necessary, the criminal law violations.”
Asked about P.L. 3-91, OPA legal counsel George L. Hasselback said the law speaks for itself.
“It authorizes OPA to investigate and potentially prosecute any law violations by the Governor or the Attorney General,” said Hasselback.
“That's what the law says and that's what we are operating under,” Hasselback added.
It was Hasselback who filed seven misdemeanor charges against Buckingham.
Five charges were in connection with Buckingham's alleged hosting of a delegate candidate's party at Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's house in August 2010 and the AG's approval of a $400,000 sole-source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act management contract in October 2010 to Michael Ada within days of the latter stepping down as a Cabinet secretary.
Two charges were related to Buckingham's alleged use of police officers to escort him at the airport to avoid being served with the Superior Court's penal summons between Friday and Saturday.
Wiseman on Monday issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Buckingham for not appearing in court despite penal summons served on him by an FBI special agent. The judge imposed a $50,000 cash bail for Buckingham.