The House of Representatives will release to the public the documentation that supports each Article of Impeachment against Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, according to Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan) last week.
Speaking at the public comments portion during the Senate’s impeachment trial of Torres last Monday, Staffler said they will release the documentation despite the Senate’s efforts to block the evidence collected and presented by the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee over the course of last year.
“To the public, you will be able to see it for yourself,” said the lawmaker, without mentioning any specific date.
Staffler is running for lieutenant governor in the coming Nov. 8 general election under the Democratic Party. She is the running mate of Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan).
Last Wednesday, with four “no” votes and three “yes” votes, the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Torres of all charges in the Articles of Impeachment brought by the Democrats-controlled House.
Staffler said her colleagues in the House have been diligent in their efforts to guard the CNMI purse from abuses and overspending. She noted that Article 2 of the Article of Impeachment explored four counts of theft.
The lawmaker said if they had been given the opportunity, they would have presented the evidence the JGO collected to show how Torres used his position to deprive the CNMI of its resources for his personal and political gain.
“From questionable reimbursements, to having his staff coordinate so-called official travel that just to happened to coincide with political gatherings,” she said.
Staffler said Article 2 illustrates the methods in which Torres committed theft—by creating a false impression as to the “public purpose” and true intentions of his official travel and reimbursements.
“To support these assertions, what you would find, is the lack of follow-through on accountability practices that helped facilitate these abuses of power,” she said.
The lawmaker said proving a public purpose requires documentation to show that travel was conducted for a true reason. She said what is not found in the hundreds of pages of the governor’s travel are trip reports. Staffler said this is one documentation practice that would have provided the public purpose of travel.
“If there are no trip reports, one can only speculate,” she said.
The lawmaker said provided with additional pieces of the puzzle, such as Facebook posts of political gatherings that happen to be during the same timeframe as the government travel, there is not much else to show for what the reasons were for the governor to leave Saipan in the first place.
As an example, Staffler cited the impeachment trial last May 13 (which she described as a farce), which tried to link the public purpose of one of the trips to Oregon and Alaska referenced in Article 2.
She said Glenna Palacios, the former senior policy adviser to the Office of the Governor, claimed in her testimony that the trip was to attend the memorial service for Bishop Thomas Camacho and to meet with Western regional director of the Office of Economic Adjustment Gary Kuwabara.
She said the bishop’s memorial was never written as part of Torres’ travel authorization. Staffler said there was no evidence provided to even show that the governor participated in this memorial event.
Saipan Tribune recalled, however, that during the May 13 trial, the lead counsel for Torres, Anthony Aguon, showed two photos of Torres participating in the memorial event that took place in April 2018.
Aguon also showed before the senators two photos of meetings between Torres and Kuwabara in May 2018.
Staffler said the administration continues to create a false impression as to the “public purpose and true intention of some official travels. To the casual observer, she said, it may seem incidental that there just happens to be a political gathering at the same time Torres’ travel for other documented “public purpose” as listed in the Travel Authorization justification.
“But when you look at the balcony view of all travels conducted on the CNMI dime, you can see another pattern. Those incidental trips all supported the governor’s 2018 gubernatorial run,” Staffler pointed out.
Sprinkled in between these spurious travel activities are multiple examples of theft, Staffle5r said, where Torres received reimbursements for items like headsets, camping gear, hunting equipment, hotel rooms and fuel for traveling to Rota by boat.
The lawmaker said they have evidence and testimony that prove Torres received multiple questionable reimbursements.