Members of the Special Committee on Impeachment agreed to subpoena the phone records of two law enforcement officers between Aug. 3 and 4 as the hearings entered its ninth day on Friday, when the panel heard from witnesses on the governor's failure to terminate his former attorney general Edward T. Buckingham after it became evident he violated laws by hosting a meet-and-greet for a delegate candidate in 2010 as well as the no-bid $190.8-million power purchase agreement.
Rep. Frank Dela Cruz (R-Saipan) made a motion to subpoena documents from IT&E and the Department of Finance, specifically phone records of two government personnel from 7am Aug. 3 to 10am Aug. 4.
The phone records are for the cellular phone numbers 285-5286 and 285-9008, as requested by Dela Cruz. Saipan Tribune later learned these two numbers belonged to law enforcement officials involved in the escorting of Buckinghams at the airport in August.
The actual conversation, however, couldn't be obtained unless the calls were bugged on Aug. 3 and 4; the committee is only after the time of the actual calls and/or text messages from and to these two numbers.
Impeachment Committee chair Rep. Joe Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan) said for the most part, the hearings have gone on smoothly despite not getting all the documents and other materials that the committee had requested for, including missing prison logbook and prison surveillance cameras.
“I think overall, for the most part, it went smoothly,” Deleon Guerrero said during a short recess in the hearings.
Deleon Guerrero said the committee members will weigh the information they have gathered during the hearings, to come up with a recommendation to the full House of Representatives.
“I know that there are people for, people against, but before we deliberate on it, we'll be making a statement that regardless of what our positions are, that it's important that we weigh the evidence, that we keep an open mind as we weigh the evidence,” he said.
The impeachment hearings will wrap up today with Department of Public Safety deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro as the only witness scheduled to testify, in connection with Buckingham's controversial departure from the CNMI.
Deleon Guerrero said they expect Ogumoro to bring his own legal counsel, after he invoked his Fifth Amendment right last week. Ogumoro also told the committee last week that the impeachment hearing was “a waste of government time.”
The impeachment committee also said during Friday's hearing that the FBI Honolulu office notified them that two FBI agents could not testify at the impeachment hearings. These two FBI agents served Buckingham a penal summons shortly before the former AG departed Saipan.
The penal summons required Buckingham to appear in court two days later, but he did not come back to Saipan. Buckingham was escorted by armed police and ports police officers, allegedly shielding him from being served a penal summons until the FBI's help was sought.
Of the eight members of the Impeachment Committee, Rep. Joe Palacios (R-Saipan) was the only one that was perennially absent from most of the impeachment hearings.
On Friday morning, Frieda Demapan, an executive assistant at the Office of the Attorney General, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked by Dela Cruz whether a scheduled meet-and-greet with a delegate candidate in August 2010 was approved by Buckingham.
Demapan was the one that sent an email to OAG attorneys and staff in August 2010 inviting them to a meet-and-greet with then delegate candidate Joe Camacho, now a Superior Court judge, at the governor's house.
The committee also called in former assistant attorney general Mike Ernest to testify on the events surrounding the same meet-and-greet with a delegate candidate in 2010.
Ernest, now a private attorney, said the event started out as a dinner between the governor and the first lady and Buckingham and his wife. The event later on was extended to include assistant attorneys general at the OAG. And later on, it became a meet-and-greet with the governor's delegate candidate, something that Ernest said he and other government attorneys felt was not appropriate.
The impeachment panel chairman said Ernest's testimony was consistent with the testimony and records already obtained by the committee.
On Friday afternoon, the committee heard from Commonwealth Utilities Corp. acting executive director Alan Fletcher, again on the no-bid $190.8 million power purchase agreement.
He told the committee he was asked by the governor, as well as Buckingham, to sign the 25-year power purchase agreement but he “respectfully declined” to do so because he felt the agreement needed more analysis. A day later, Fitial and Buckingham signed the PPA.
This is the first time in CNMI history that a resolution impeaching the governor has been pre-filed, introduced and reviewed by a special committee.