Gov. Benigno R. Fitial no longer has allies in the special committee that's reviewing a resolution impeaching him for 18 allegations of corruption, felony, and neglect. Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro (R-Saipan) resigned from the panel yesterday, just like Rep. Teresita Santos (R-Rota).
Rep. Tony Sablan (IR-Saipan), chairman of the Special Investigating Committee on Impeachment, received Ogumoro's resignation letter yesterday, when the panel adopted three more articles of neglect related to the governor's failure to discipline former attorney general Edward Buckingham for hosting a delegate candidate campaign in 2010, and for failure to appoint secretaries for the departments of Public Lands and Public Works.
Ogumoro's letter was dated Jan. 28 but was stamped received Jan. 29.
Sablan, in an interview during recess, said the resignation of the minority members “is beyond our control” and is quite disappointing.
“They were given an opportunity to be represented in the committee. In a way, I am disappointed that they decided to withdraw from the committee. But we have to move on. We have a public mandate to fulfill. Now we leave it up to the minority leader to work with the speaker on replacements,” Sablan told Saipan Tribune.
Ogumoro defended the governor at every turn during committee meetings on Thursday and Friday, especially on the allegations related to the unauthorized release of a federal inmate to massage the governor in his private residence in January 2010.
Ogumoro was absent from the meeting on Monday and Tuesday without advance notice, until Sablan received yesterday her letter of resignation “effective immediately.”
“My work on House Resolution 18-2 will resume when the full House meets to act on said resolution,” Ogumoro said in her one-page letter.
Minority leader George Camacho (R-Saipan) said yesterday that a letter to the speaker shall be forthcoming. He, however, said he has yet to receive a request from the speaker or the impeachment panel chair requesting replacements from the minority group.
House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan) appointed seven members to the committee, of which two are from the four-member minority bloc.
Sablan said Camacho recused himself from committee membership last year because his brother, former delegate and now Associate Judge Joe Camacho, was involved in one of the allegations, specifically Article 10, which the panel adopted with amendment yesterday.
“This leaves Rep. Richard Seman as possible replacement but again we leave it up to the minority group,” Sablan added.
In yesterday's meeting, the committee adopted Article 10, a neglect charge, by a vote of 5-0.
The committee adopted an amendment to this article, to insert a phrase that the governor failed to “impose employment sanctions or otherwise discipline” Buckingham.
The former AG allegedly either solicited, conspired to commit, committed, or countenanced the violation of the federal Hatch Act and provisions of the Commonwealth Code pertaining to the use of public funds, employees, time or equipment during political campaigns.
Also by a vote of 5-0, the committee adopted Article 17, a neglect charge, on the governor's failure to appoint a DPL secretary.
The committee also adopted by a vote of 5-0 Article 18, also a neglect charge, related to Fitial's failure to nominate a DPW secretary.
With 10 articles already adopted since Thursday, the committee has only eight remaining articles to vote on before recommending action to the full House of Representatives.
The committee wrapped up its meeting at around 4:40pm yesterday, and will resume at 1:30pm today. The proceedings are aired on Channel 60.
Fitial can be impeached in the House and convicted in the Senate on any one of the 18 articles of felony, corruption, and neglect of duty.