Attorney General Ed Buckingham said yesterday that the documents allegedly “leaked” by an anonymous source are not official and as such, no one can say if they are authentic or verify who wrote them.
The media showed a leaked copy of the Office of the Public Auditor report to Buckingham yesterday afternoon to ask whether it’s the same report he received in December 2010. But he questioned the authenticity of the documents.
“The documents that were ‘leaked’ today were not officially released. Not from the Governor. Not from OPA [Office of the Public Auditor]. The source of these documents remains anonymous,” Buckingham said in a statement late yesterday afternoon.
Conversely, he said, he has always been open and forthright about this matter and has done nothing in secret.
“When OPA launched this investigation, I instructed everyone in my office to cooperate fully. Furthermore, I have gone on record as to what happened at the dinner that night,” he added.
A copy of OPA’s Dec. 13, 2010 “Report and recommendation of ethics investigation of Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham” and the accompanying two-page letter from Public Auditor Michael Pai to Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos was leaked by an anonymous individual to the media and some members of the public on Tuesday night. Others got them Wednesday morning.
OPA’s investigation report concluded that Buckingham’s actions “violated criminal prohibitions” of both the Commonwealth Ethics Code Act and the Commonwealth Election Act when he hosted a campaign party for then delegate candidate Joseph N. Camacho at the governor’s private residence in Gualo Rai on Aug. 28, 2010.
“While I do not know the motive for releasing these documents, I trust that the public will make an informed evaluation before relying on rumors. I hope that the people of the CNMI will judge our office by the good results we have produced, rather than by anonymous documents,” Buckingham said.
Acting governor Eloy S. Inos also questioned the authenticity of the documents, a copy of which was also shown him by the media yesterday afternoon.
He said he’s concerned that such a report, which he said is supposed to be confidential, was leaked. He did not want to comment further.
The anonymous source who leaked a copy of the OPA report and accompanying letter to Fitial and Inos, said: “This report has been sealed since December 2010, by law and by the refusal of the governor and attorney general to release it.”
“To this day, there has been no justice. No one has been held accountable. Buckingham is still the highest legal authority in the Commonwealth,” said the anonymous source, who used the email firstname.lastname@example.org to release the report.
The source said “principled leaking of information has changed the course of history for the better. It can alter the course of history in the present, and it can lead us to a better future.”
“Our government should be subject to the pressure, not merely of federal oversight, Open Government Act requests, or even periodic elections, but of something far stronger—the consciences of the people within it,” the source added.
Buckingham said OPA holds a powerful and necessary position, including conducting investigations and reporting its findings to the governor.
“OPA investigators have access to large amounts of confidential information and are given wide discretion in making investigations; for this reason, reports must remain confidential unless the governor chooses to disclose them,” the attorney general said.
As to the dinner at the governor’s place, Buckingham said he “never instructed anyone to vote for any candidate—either in my ‘official’ capacity as attorney general or as a private citizen.”
He said he has never endorsed a candidate, recused himself from participating in the electoral process, and did not even vote in the election.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), who also received a copy of the leaked document, said the AG “broke the law.”
Sablan said that if the AG did nothing wrong, he should have released the report in December.
Glen Hunter, a citizen who also received a leaked copy of the report, said he is “now even more confident that results of investigations that concern our public officials should not be kept hidden.”
“It seems only proper that when a citizen discovers and reports abuses perpetrated by those who are in positions of power and authority, the results of those investigations be made public as soon as possible in order to restore our confidence. Should the investigations reveal, as in this case, that misconduct by a public official has occurred, proper actions must be taken to quickly remedy the breach of public trust,” he said.
He said the system of law as it stands now, and as the CNMI has now discovered through the revelation of the leaked OPA report, “does not protect the citizens from corruption.”
“Going forward I intend to work with other concerned individuals on drafting legislation that correct the flaws in our laws that currently allow for corruption to occur unchecked as in this instance,” he added.