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Attorney, Private Practice 2000-present Former Senate Legal Counsel 1994-2000, Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature Chief Consultant, 1985 Northern Marianas Constitutional Convention

Saturday, October 20, 2012

On the failure to impeach ...

To "impeach" is to make an accusation, to challenge the validity of something. By voting "no" on the impeachment resolution, ten members of the House of Representatives refused to "challenge the validity" of the actions of Governor Fitial enumerated in the resolution. In effect, they were saying it is okay for the Governor to neglect his constitutional duties; it is okay to have prisoners brought from the jail to the governor's house for personal services; it is okay to spend public funds without any oversight, accountability or controls ... for the special benefit of friends and allies; it is okay to use the police to help a person charged with a crime evade legal process; it is okay to "govern" the way he has been "governing."

It is not okay, and the Governor's corrupt monarchical style -- together with his utterly misguided policies and practices -- has been destroying the CNMI and heaping enormous injury upon the people who live here.

If the CEO of a major corporation were to conduct himself in such a fashion, just how long would his board of directors allow him to remain in office?

Representative Palacios apparently sent out a mass email after the vote attempting to explain his action. Glen Hunter has made a trenchant response, which I quote in full below, with minor edits to enhance readability and supplying emphasis where I see fit:

Good afternoon, Rep. Palacios,

Thank you for sharing this email with me. As I have said before, you have always been open and forthcoming with me on every issue that we have discussed. I admire that and appreciate it very much.

I do not disagree with much of what you have said. but what I do disagree with you on are the crucial steps necessary in moving towards a better CNMI.

First, I agree that the CNMI is in a big mess due to years of neglect of duty, corrupt practices and criminal actions committed by numerous individuals. It is also in this state due to a severe lack of vision, planning, leadership and execution.

Secondly, I agree that one person is not responsible for this mess.

Finally, I agree that the Legislature has not done much to remedy the situation especially in the recent years.

Now here is where we start to differ a bit. You mention that the Legislature has failed. Aside from the Impeachment resolution, all that is needed for the house to generate bills to address the problems you pointed out is a majority of their members. You currently have had that majority. That majority has controlled the tone and tenor of every session for the past years and it has been unlike anything the CNMI has ever witnessed. It was a one track mindset from the get go, a 'casino or nothing' mentality that I would never have imagined anyone would allow to occur.

I witnessed this, firsthand on many occasions at sessions, public hearing, personal meetings with reps, and other occasions. Every possible effort was expended time and time again to force through legislation that would enable casino gambling in Saipan. Stalemates on other legislation occurred and huge divides in the house were created. Needless to say nothing would have stopped the 17th from passing out of its body any bill (aside from the 2/3rd required impeachment resolution) that the majority saw as proper remedy to the situations the CNMI is suffering from. That did not occur.

Also, although one man is not fully responsible for all the problems in the CNMI, that one man, the governor, is fully responsible for the items contained in HR 17-111. And after the testimony and evidence received this past month his ties to those items is indisputable. We can point to other issues in order to try and remove focus from his misdeeds, but that will not make them go away and that will do nothing but create a precedent of acceptance and a message of sanction for all his future violations.

HR17-111 laid out just a few of the more egregious misdeeds committed by the governor. We all know that there have been many more. What that piece of legislation illustrated was a pattern of neglect and corrupt practices by the highest elected leader in our land.

Yes, there are many issues in the CNMI such as CUC, CHC, NMIRF, etc. Those issues, however serious, should never be used as a legitimate reason, by lawmakers, to turn a blind eye to the items listed out and substantiated in HR17-111. Items that were perpetrated by Governor Fitial. Items that Governor Fitial is directly responsible for. Items that have never been adequately refuted.

We, as a community, would not let a thief caught by the police off the hook if he turned to us and said, "the CNMI is in disarray, leave me alone to steal and let it be". That would be an inadequate defense, and we all are smart enough to know it. Yet, that is exactly what ten representatives did just two nights ago.

The 10 of you viewed and reviewed so much information and sincere testimony given to the special committee by so many individuals who care about the future of our great islands. The people that came into your sacred house gave their all in order to see justice was served. They risked their time, their relationships, their jobs, and perhaps even their lives, to give an account of the abuses that occurred. abuses that were directly tied to the governor of the CNMI.

The response that the 10 of you gave amounted to a "so what? who cares? let it be!" reaction to the mountain of evidence and litany of testimony that backed up the findings in HR17-111. The 10 of you turned a blind eye.

Would impeaching governor fitial solve everything? No. Would arresting and convicting a thief today stop all crime in the CNMI? No. Should we turn a blind eye to either? Of course not.

The oath you took when you were seated was to uphold and defend the laws and constitution of the CNMI. There was no condition or fine-print which excused the governor of the CNMI or gave you the right to turn from that oath for any reason whatsoever. Yet, 10 did on that October 17th evening.

That was a night that the CNMI will not soon forget.

Although it would have been great if HR17-111 was passed through to the Senate and the governor was given an opportunity to directly answer to the articles put before him, it was not a total loss to the community that the vote occurred. That vote solidified each of the sitting representatives position on this grave matter. As I stated in my testimony before the house on more than three occasions, that vote boiled down to a simple choice between what is right and what is wrong. There was no grey area and there was no sensible, logical or reasonable reason for HR 17-111 to not be passed unanimously by the 17th House of Representatives. Instead, we as a community know full well where each member now stands.

It appears that accountability and justice will have to be attempted once again in the 18th legislature.

It is not too late for any of the 10 members to come forward and alter their stance on this issue.

I would ask that at some point, if you haven't already, you review the video clips contained in these playlists listed below my signature. They contain the testimony of the witnesses before the Special Committee on Impeachment and they contain news clips of the proceedings.

As with any attempt to turn things around in a failing system, steps must be taken. Very seldom is there ever one magic pill or solution to fix systemic problems. The impeachment of the governor is a huge step that must be taken in order to get the CNMI back on track. I am not foolish enough not to know that there is quite a journey ahead of that step and future steps I will not live to see. But that must not stop me from taking that first step in order to hand a better CNMI over to our children than the one we have been handed.

I wish you the best and know that you must be very conflicted in these trying times as many others are as well.

I end by thanking you once again for continuing the dialog and continuing to speak with us.


glen hunter
I disagree with Glen on one point. It IS to late for any of "The Terrible Ten" to salvage their political careers unless they can persuade a sufficient number of their colleagues to change their vote, pass the impeachment resolution, and send the Governor to the Senate for trial. Anything else is just puffery, hot hair, lip service and window dressing -- hollow and untrustworthy words on which no voter should rely.

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