By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) Former Lt. Gov. Diego Benavente received a $5,000 monthly consulting fee from Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), LLC between 2016 and 2018, according to a current official with the Commonwealth Casino Commission.
Mr. Benavente, the principal behind consulting firm Diego Benavente & Associates, is married to Vicky Benavente, the Commonwealth Secretary of Labor under Gov. Ralph Torres's administration.
The consulting firm's transactions with the casino were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, along with the transactions involving 29 other people and entities.
Ms. Benavente is in charge of the agency that facilitates the issuance of contract worker licenses, and the regulatory arm that investigates and issues fines for violations of labor laws. IPI has hundreds contract workers on its payroll and constantly is the subject of labor violations.
Mr. Benavente led the campaign for the impeachment and removal from office of former Gov. Benigno Fitial. He was an anti-corruption crusader in 2012 and campaigned ferociously against candidates for office in the 2012 election who were opposed to the first impeachment effort against Mr. Fitial that failed in 2012.
Commonwealth voters swept the opponents of impeachment out of office in 2012, and the new members of the House of Representatives wasted no time in impeaching the governor. They introduced House Resolution 18-2, the articles of impeachment, days after taking office in January 2013, and impeached Mr. Fitial within the same month.
Mr. Fitial resigned before the Senate could take up a removal trial following its receipt of the articles of impeachment from the House.
Among those who introduced the articles of impeachment against Mr. Fitial was current Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, who has changed his tune about the amount of probable cause needed to begin an impeachment inquiry and investigation now that Gov. Ralph Torres's conduct is in question and evidence of corruption has surfaced.
The CCC official, who spoke to Kandit on condition of anonymity, said that the commission could never verify the actual services and work provided by Mr. Benavente that warranted a $60,000 annual consulting agreement, and believes the services are just that on paper.