Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations chair Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) said yesterday his panel has yet to receive from the Department of Public Safety and Commonwealth Ports Authority a written report about any internal investigation conducted to determine alleged abuse and misuse of armed police and ports police officers, as well as government vehicles, to transport and escort former attorney general Edward Buckingham to the airport on Aug. 4.
The escort was purportedly intended to shield Buckingham from being served a penal summons for criminal charges filed against him.
Cruz said it has been a month since the Senate EAGI Committee sent an Aug. 10 letter to both DPS acting commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro and CPA executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero.
That letter asks DPS and CPA to conduct a full internal investigation into alleged abuse of power, misuse of government resources, and obstruction of justice.
Cruz said that while Deleon Guerrero “told” the media that CPA “concluded” that ports police did not violate any law or abused power when they escorted Buckingham and his wife to the airport, his panel has not received such report of the investigation.
The senator, however, said on Aug. 14, Deleon Guerrero sent him a letter officially acknowledging receipt of his Aug. 10 letter.
Deleon Guerrero's one-page letter “assured that CPA is conducting an independent inquiry into what occurred at the Saipan International Airport on the morning of Aug. 4, 2012.”
“As CPA understands and respects the subpoena power of the Legislature, please feel free to submit any subpoena should you wish to obtain information resulting from CPA's inquiry,” Deleon Guerrero told Cruz in his letter.
Deleon Guerrero earlier told Saipan Tribune, “I want to say, we respect the subpoena power of the Legislature. But in my review of what happened that night, there's nothing that indicated our ports police have done anything wrong. They did not do anything to violate the law.”
The CPA executive director said the ports police only assisted DPS personnel when they escorted the Buckinghams at the airport. “I don't believe that any of my officers tried to stop the process [of serving the penal summons],” he added.
Cruz said yesterday that CPA may only just be waiting for the investigation report to be subpoenaed. But he said his committee wasn't expecting that CPA would wait to be subpoenaed before submitting the results of its internal investigation.
The Senate panel is also awaiting a written report from DPS.
Acting DPS commissioner Aniceto Ogumoro acknowledged in writing Cruz's Aug. 10 letter regarding DPS' actions during the early morning hours of Aug. 4.
“I understand the concern that you and the people of the Commonwealth have about the alleged conduct of our department and several of our officers. I wish to inform you that I share these concerns. Therefore, I have instructed my staff to carry out an internal investigation to discover exactly how the events of that morning came about, and to determine if any criminal acts were committed, or if any departmental rules and regulations were violated,” Ogumoro said in an Aug. 16 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Saipan Tribune.
Ogumoro's brother, DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro, was among the police officers that escorted the Buckinghams.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's security aide, Police Capt. Jermaine Nekaifes, and CPA Ports Police chief Jordan Kosam were also among those involved based on video footage taken by KSPN 2.
Cruz said he understands that DPS may be swamped with other responsibilities and investigations, but hopes that the internal investigation into the airport incident would be wrapped up soon.
“Based on the video footage, the police officers involved are not rookies. Police and ports police are sworn to uphold the law. If they knew there was a penal summons to be served to the AG, they should help serve that penal summons to the AG rather than help him avoid it. The people deserve an explanation for what these police and ports police did,” Cruz told Saipan Tribune.
Senators and community members questioned the use of on-duty police officers and government marked and unmarked vehicles to transport and escort the Buckinghams until they were about to board the plane.
Cruz said the Senate EAGI will have no choice but go to the next step if CPA and DPS do not comply with their request.
“We'd be asking the Office of the Public Auditor and the Office of the Attorney General to investigate. The last option would be to also ask the FBI to investigate it. But it's going to be insulting for the CNMI to ask federal agencies to investigate something that the local agencies failed to investigate. This is not a murder case that cannot be investigated and concluded by our own agencies. But I won't have a choice but to do that if needed,” the senator added.
He reiterated that the attorney general, police officers, and ports police officers are “not above the law.”
On Aug. 3, on Buckingham's supposed last “work day,” the Office of the Public Auditor filed criminal charges against him in connection with his alleged hosting of a delegate candidate's “meet and greet” party in 2010 and signing of an almost $400,000 sole-source ARRA management contract award to Mike Ada within days of resigning as Commerce secretary.
OPA, however, could not locate Buckingham on Aug. 3. When they learned that Buckingham was leaving in the early morning hours of Aug. 4 rather than the announced Aug. 5 departure, they tried to serve him at the airport but did not succeed.
OPA sought the help of the FBI, which successfully served Buckingham the penal summons to appear in court on Aug. 6, before his plane bound for Narita took off.
Buckingham didn't show up in court on Aug. 6, prompting Superior Court associate judge David Wiseman to impose a $50,000 cash bail for Buckingham after he determined that the AG flagrantly disregarded the court's penal summons.
OPA filed an amended information adding two more charges against Buckingham as a result of the airport incident: interference with service of process and misconduct in public office.
Buckingham's last “work day” was on Aug. 3, before taking a 30-day annual leave before fully resigning for family matters. He later rescinded his resignation to answer the charges against him but he later resigned again, citing family and medical reasons.
On his last day of work, Buckingham also signed off on a 25-year, $190.8 million power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC.
The airport incident and the power purchase deal are among the issues included in a resolution to impeach the governor for felony, corruption and neglect of duty.