By Jacob Nakamura
The Speaker of the Commonwealth House of Representatives has appointed a bipartisan special committee to formally investigate Gov. Ralph Torres's widely-reported spending spree at taxpayer expense.
Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao has established the Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures, and has appointed the following four Republicans and four independent members of the House:
Rep. Ralph Yumul as the chairman
Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero as the vice chairman
Rep. John Paul Sablan
Rep. Luis Castro
Rep. Edwin Propst
Rep. Christina Sablan
Rep. Donald Manglona
Rep. Edmund Villagomez
A similar investigative body was formed that led to the impeachment of former Gov. Benigno Fitial.
Mr. Attao's actions culminate from months of continuous exposure of documents showing Mr. Torres had made personal and questionable purchases for which Commonwealth taxpayers reimbursed him. The ongoing public health emergency placed a pause on an earlier inquiry begun by two House standing committees. This action by the speaker has come suddenly, and to the delightful surprise of many who have questioned why the Legislature has not acted to hold the governor accountable for his spending sprees.
The sprees involved purchases of personal items such as luxury dinners, boom boxes, headphones, fuel, hotel rooms, and even Cheetos, among hundreds of items and services amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures. Mr. Torres would turn in receipts of these expenditures to the Department of Finance, then be paid for these purchases.
"[I]n consideration of the issues and serious implications that have been officially raised relative to executive expenditures of Governor Ralph DLG Torres I am obliged to create a Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures to review said materials in a fair and reasonable manner," Mr. Attao stated in his historic memorandum issued today.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve in this bipartisan committee," Mr. Propst said. "It has been a long delay due to the pandemic, but it is time to get to work. We expect criticism and attacks that we are being political from the administration. Nothing new."
Mr. Propst and Ms. Sablan, as well as Delegate Gregorio "Kilili" Sablan, have been attacked personally by governor's senior advisor Robert Hunter and spokesman Kevin Bautista for their criticism of the governor's spending. It was Mr. Propst and Ms. Sablan who introduced the documents (receipts, reimbursement memos, etc.) into the official record of the House that led to the initial inquiry.