The Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations formally asked yesterday the heads of the Department of Public Safety and the Commonwealth Ports Authority to initiate a “full internal investigation” into what appeared to be an attempt by armed DPS and CPA officers to prevent the serving of a penal summons to Attorney General Edward Buckingham on his way out of the CNMI on Aug. 4.
Buckingham was served a penal summons by an FBI agent shortly before the plane took off, in connection with criminal charges filed by the Office of the Public Auditor against him.
EAGI chair Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) separately asked DPS acting commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro and CPA executive director Edward M. Deleon Guerrero to “determine whether all involved police officers/ports police officers committed any criminal acts and/or violated any departmental rules and regulations.”
Cruz said the EAGI Committee looks forward to the two agencies' investigative findings and most importantly, to preserving the integrity of DPS and CPA and their fundamental principle of public service. Cruz said DPS' principle is “to serve and protect.”
Ogumoro and Deleon Guerrero could not be reached for comment as of last night.
In his two-page letter, Cruz presented what his committee has so far gathered based on readily available information from the media.
Cruz said the incident occurred at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport in the early morning hours of Aug. 4.
He said on that day, Buckingham and his wife were captured on video with DPS and CPA officers-including DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's security aide Police Capt. Jermaine Nekaifes, and CPA Ports Police chief Jordan Kosam.
Cruz said these officers acted as “high-level escorts for the AG in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent the Office of the Public Auditor investigators from serving the AG with penal summons to appear in the CNMI Superior Court on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 in response to charges filed against him.”
The Senate EAGI panel chair also said officers “allegedly used physical force to prevent KSPN News anchor Tina Sablan from interviewing the AG while at the airport.”
“As expected, these allegations gravely concern the Senate Committee on (EAGI), whose responsibility is to investigate any wrongdoings in our government and its operations. The committee believes that it is in the public's best interest to clarify the events that occurred in the early morning of Aug. 4, 2012 and to justify your personnel's actions,” Cruz separately told the DPS and CPA heads.
In an interview yesterday, Cruz said he hopes DPS and CPA will heed the committee request. He said the EAGI Committee may send similar letters to other agencies.
Senate President Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) said he has full faith in the EAGI Committee, that it will be able to “get to the bottom” of what transpired exactly a week ago at the airport involving the AG, DPS and CPA officers.
Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) alleged that the “governor knows everything about the incident,” adding that he won't be surprised if federal authorities get in on the picture as some federally funded vehicles were used in transporting and escorting the AG.
Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman issued a bench warrant for Buckingham's arrest for not appearing in court despite penal summons served on him by an FBI special agent.
Wiseman imposed a $50,000 cash bail for Buckingham after he determined that the AG flagrantly disregarded the court's lawful penal summons.
The criminal charges against Buckingham included alleged hosting of a delegate candidate party at the governor's house in August 2010 and approving a $400,000 sole-source contract award to a Cabinet member within days of resigning from government.
OPA filed amended information adding two more charges against Buckingham. The new charges-obstructing justice: interference with service of process, and misconduct in public office-were related to Buckingham's alleged use of police officers to escort him at the airport to avoid being served with penal summons between Friday and Saturday.