Finance OK’d first-class travel in 2017—Torres

Finance denies governor’s recent request to travel to Tinian to attend funeral

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said last week that his use of first class or business class travel for his and the first lady’s official trip to several places in the U.S. mainland in 2017 had been approved by the Department of Finance.

During a news briefing last Friday when he was asked to comment on his 2017 trip, which the House of Representatives Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee had issues with in its investigation of Torres’ travels and expenditures, Torres said his request for that travel was processed and reviewed by Finance.

The governor said they turned in the agenda and other papers for that trip and Larrisa Larson, who was the then-Finance secretary, approved it.

“If they Finance) see it’s proper, they sign it and they go through it. And if they don’t see it proper, then they’ll deny it,” he said.

A recent JGO Committee hearing cited documents pertaining to Torres and first lady Diann T. Torres’ trip from June 23, 2017, to July 2, 2017, from Saipan to Portland, Oregon; Kalispell, Montana; and Boise, Idaho. Rep. Edwin K. Propst (D-Saipan) said the first couple traveled first class and business class and that, according to the documents, the airfare alone cost the government more than $23,000, with ticket fare at $11,651 each. The governor and the first lady were accompanied by two personal security detail personnel in that trip.

according to Torres’ travel authorization, the purpose of that trip was to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials in Oregon on the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument and to attend the 2017 Western Governors Association in Whitefish, Montana.

Torres disclosed that he sent a request letter to travel to Tinian two weeks ago in order to attend a funeral, but Finance denied it.

“That’s fine. I’m not complaining,” said Torres, noting that, according to Finance, it has to be a state funeral or any travel has to be an official travel.

The governor said he understands because Finance is only doing its work.

Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig confirmed at the same news briefing that they indeed denied Torres’ request for such a travel. Atalig said he was not aware of it but learned that their staff was only doing their job.

He said regulations dictate that official travel for funerals must be for state funerals.

He said if the governor needed to attend a funeral, then that’s considered a personal reason and not a government reason.

“So that was denied and I believe he [Torres] went ahead on his own accord,” Atalig said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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