The Special Committee on Impeachment approved yesterday issuing subpoenas to dozens of officials and private individuals-including department heads and representatives, corrections officers, police officers, attorneys, FBI agents, and a reporter and her partner-to testify in the ongoing review of a resolution impeaching Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, even as the panel has yet to decide whether or not to send soon to the full House three of the 16 articles of impeachment that were already approved.
Dozens of documents, including copies of contracts, financial records, government surveillance videos, KSPN 2 video recordings, and investigation reports will also be subpoenaed as early as Wednesday.
Committee chair and House minority leader Joe Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) said panel members will convene on Wednesday to review and approve the release of the invitation and request letters that will be drafted today.
Agencies and individuals will be given five to 10 days to submit the documents requested of them, he said.
Government officials, employees and private citizens will also be given specific dates to testify before the special committee.
During yesterday's morning meetings, all eight members of the committee were present. They were four from the House leadership and four from the minority bloc.
When the meeting resumed in the afternoon, one of the leadership members, vice speaker Felicidad Ogumoro (Cov-Saipan) was “excused” to attend the meeting of the House-Senate conference committee on the fiscal year 2013 budget.
“There are other pressing issues we need to attend to. This (impeachment process) is at the bottom of my priorities right now,” Ogumoro told the committee members, during discussions of individuals and documents to be subpoenaed.
'Masseuse inmate release'
The committee's first discussion topics yesterday were Articles 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 of the impeachment resolution for felony and corruption, in connection with the January 2010 temporary release of a federal inmate to provide massage service to the governor.
Among the individuals to be invited to testify are the Department of Corrections commissioner, Corrections guards who participated, and the Department of Public Safety commissioner and guards involved in the incident that happened on or before Jan. 8, 2010.
The committee will also subpoena Corrections logs, time and attendance sheets indicating whether such alleged removal of a federal detainee took place; media videos of interviews regarding the incident; Corrections surveillance videos; DPS, Office of the Public Auditor and Office of the Attorney General documents, if any, regarding investigation of the masseuse incident; OAG documents, if any, defending the governor or the governor's response to the allegations related to the masseuse incident; federal investigation reports, if any; information on the status and whereabouts of the masseuse; and Corrections report on value of all services to transport a federal detainee including personnel salaries and fuel costs.
When a motion was made to approve the subpoena related to the five of 16 articles of impeachment, six voted “yes” and two voted “no.”
Those who voted “yes” were chairman Joe Deleon Guerrero, Ogumoro, Reps. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan), Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan), Tony Sablan (R-Saipan), and Fred Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan).
Reps. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) and Joe Palacios (R-Saipan) voted “no.” It was their first time to attend the committee meeting since Thursday. They also both gone on record saying they will vote “no” to the impeachment resolution.
“I know I already said I'm voting 'no' to the impeachment resolution but I will be attending the meetings to learn more about the issues, to make sure our side is also heard,” Torres told Saipan Tribune.
Palacios, for his part, said he was in Guam last week to meet with government and hospital officials there to see whether they could accommodate his request to have a young patient at the Commonwealth Health Center to be sent to the Guam Memorial Hospital.
The second set of discussions also yesterday morning were Articles 4, 6, and 11 in connection with the use of armed police and ports police officers to escort then attorney general Edward T. Buckingham and prevent him from being served a penal summons in connection with criminal charges filed against him by OPA.
Article 4 is for commission of felony, while Article 6 is for corruption and Article 11 is for neglect of duty.
Among those who will be asked to testify before the committee are the heads of OAG, OPA, DPS, and the Commonwealth Ports Authority; personnel involved such as those from DPS and CPA; FBI agents; KSPN 2 reporter Tina Sablan and her partner Glen Hunter; and OPA legal counsel George Hasselback.
Sablan said last night she is “prepared to tell the truth.”
Among the documents or items to be requested will be raw KSPN video footage of the airport incident and edited footage with translations/captions; FBI agents' reports, if any; verification of federal vehicles used; time and attendance records of government employees involved; incident reports from CPA and DPS; and affidavit of probable cause for the search/summons and the amended summons.
The committee also instructed Legislative Bureau Staff to produce or research print media coverage of the airport incident.
'ARRA sole-source contract'
When the committee resumed meeting yesterday afternoon, they discussed Articles 8 and 16 relating to the $392,406 sole-source ARRA management contract award to Michael Ada's firm within days of resigning as Cabinet member.
Article 8 is for corruption, while Article 16 is for neglect of duty.
Among those to be asked to testify are the director of the Division of Procurement and Supply and OPA's Hasselback.
The documents to be requested include the Inspector General's report; the ARRA contract; KSPN video recording of the AG's response regarding the reasons for approving the contract; all relevant media reports; and OPA reports.
The LB staff is also asked to research or produce print media coverage of the issue.
By a vote of 7-0, the motion to approve the lists was adopted.
'$190.8M power deal'
The committee also discussed Article 9, related to the no-bid power purchase agreement with a guaranteed price of $190.8-million in a 25-year period. Article 9 is for corruption.
Among those who will be asked to testify are acting CUC director; CUC comptroller; CUC manager for power plant operations; Procurement and Supply director; and the Department of Public Lands acting secretary on a land lease agreement for the power plant.
The documents to be requested include contracts and related agreements between the CNMI and Saipan Development LLC, along with economists.com's economic analysis and correspondence between and among CUC, OAG, and the Office of the Governor.
The committee also tasked the LB staff to produce print media coverage of the issue.
'Failure to remove AG'
The panel also discussed Article 10, neglect of duty, related to the governor's failure to remove the attorney general at that time, Edward T. Buckingham, even after he was found violating laws when he hosted a political gathering for the governor's delegate candidate, now Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho.
Among the individuals and documents to be subpoenaed are OPA's Hasselback, AG designee, copy of OPA's report, and copy of complaint and amended complaint.
Print media coverage will also be compiled and reviewed.
The last item was Article 15, neglect of duty, when Fitial failed to fully remit employer contributions to the NMI Retirement Fund since 2006, thereby threatening the pension agency's solvency.
The committee will subpoena acting Fund administrator or designee, and financial records relevant to employer and employee contributions from the Fund and Finance.
LB staffers are also asked to produce print media coverage of the issue, among other things.
On Friday, the committee adopted three articles of impeachment relating to Fitial's failure to appoint a Supreme Court chief justice and members of the Civil Service Commission and the Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Commission.
This is the first time in CNMI history that a resolution to impeach the governor was introduced and reviewed by a special committee.