Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said yesterday he wants Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham back, amid calls from some House members for the governor to ask for the AG's resignation and a letter from the Senate asking Fitial to suspend the AG without pay.
Fitial, in a chance interview while he was on his way out of the governor's office building on Capital Hill yesterday, said the last time he talked to Buckingham was when the AG asked him he will rescind his resignation.
That was on Sunday, a day after Buckingham left Saipan after he was served a penal summons to appear in court two days later in connection with criminal charges that the Office of the Public Auditor filed against him.
Fitial said when he last talked to Buckingham, “he said he wants to come back.”
When asked whether he wants the attorney general back, the governor responded, “Yes, I want him back.”
Fitial, at the same time, said he's not responding to Senate President Paul Manglona's (Ind-Rota) letter.
Manglona's Aug. 7 letter asks Fitial to suspend Buckingham without pay for the duration of the criminal matter. Later on, Manglona said the AG still went ahead with his 30-day vacation and disregarded a penal summons to appear in court two days later.
“If he does not have the respect for his own office to do the right thing and tender his resignation once and for all, then you, as his superior should exercise the discretion to suspend him,” Manglona told Fitial.
Manglona also asked Fitial to investigate the actions of Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro, the governor's personal security/driver police Capt. Jermaine Nekaifes, Commonwealth Ports Authority police chief Jordan Kosam, and other DPS and CPA officers when they-on or about Aug. 3 and 4-escorted the AG and his wife from their residence to the airport using government vehicles.
Fitial declined to comment further on the matter.
Rep. Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) pre-filed on Thursday a resolution requesting the governor to ask for Buckingham's resignation.
House Resolution 17-106 has at least eight co-sponsors including Speaker Eli Cabrera (R-Saipan), and crossing party lines.
But Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan) said yesterday that HR 17-106 is “soft” and shortsighted. He said he won't be a co-sponsor to the resolution.
“Assuming the governor asked for the AG's resignation and the AG resigned, what's next? Just asking for his removal is not going to address most of the concerns in this whole matter,” Tebuteb said.
Tebuteb, chair of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, said the Legislature could do more to get to the bottom of the whole incident, including conducting an oversight hearing, subpoena documents, and order the presence of DPS and CPA officials and involved officers, as well as the governor.
“But like I said, I think this resolution has enough support to be adopted. I think it will be adopted without my signature,” he added.
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. He determined that the AG flagrantly disregarded the court's lawful penal summons.
OPA also 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.