(Editor's note: This is the thirteenth in an expose of the members of the Commonwealth Legislature, who have taken monthly allowances on top of their salaries. This Chapter 13 we bring to you the first member of the Senate to actually disclose documents and receipts justifying official expenditures of public allowances)
CHAPTER 13: Paul Manglona
By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) Rota Sen. Paul Manglona is the first member of the Senate to produce the receipts of his expenditures of the monthly allowances he took in calendar year 2019. As a matter of fact, the senator sent these documents by the Open Government Act request deadline of January 8, 2020.
Mr. Manglona, according to the documents he disclosed, spent the $60,000 in allowances mostly traveling between Rota and Saipan, and maintaining his legislative operations while in Saipan. The senator even disclosed his personal calendar, which shows every day he either was working in Rota or in Saipan; and every day he was elsewhere on business, or attending to personal business.
Among the documents are his flight itineraries, receipts, and other correspondence.
In his January 8, 2020 response to Kandit News, Mr. Manglona took the time to explain the allowances, his stance on accountability for the taking of the allowances, and his gratitude for the exposure of the Commonwealth Legislature's use of the allowances. We reprint his letter in its entirety:
This letter is in response to your Open Government Act Request for records pertaining to the monthly allowances I have received as a Senator of Rota since January 2019. Attached to this letter are my records of travel, as required under past Senate Rules, pertaining to the monthly allowances.
The current Senate's Official Rules state that a member of the Senate can use $5,000 of the member's individual office account for food, lodging, and other incidental expenses related to community events and activities as well as expenses incurred while attending to legislative business in any Senatorial District and outside the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). (Emphasis added). This blanket allowance is a significant deviation from what was allowed in previous Senates. Additionally, this new rule provision allows senators from Saipan to avail of this monthly allowance, despite the fact that Senate sessions, committee meetings and other legislative matters are conducted mainly on Saipan.
I would like to shed some light on the evolution of the Senate's monthly allowance. Initially, during the 1st through the 18th Senate, fixed monthly allowance were given only to senators from the First and Second Senatorial Districts (Rota and Tinian) to help subsidize their living expenses and air transportation cost while attending to legislative business on Saipan. While availing of these monthly allowance, the Official Rules in place at the time required senators to provide a quarterly statement of their travel.
Only in the 19th Senate (2015-2016) were the senators from the Third Senatorial District (Saipan) included in the Official Rules to avail of the $5,000 monthly allowance. Further, in the 21st Senate (2019-2020), two considerable amendments to the Official Rules for monthly allowances were made--the deletion of the travel reporting requirement and the inclusion of community events and activities as allowable expenses.
The Senate's original intent of this monthly allowance for Rota and Tinian Senators is to provide for such monthly allowance in lieu of paying per diem, as the Senators from Rota and Tinian spend more time on Saipan than in their Senatorial Districts attending to their legislative obligations. Now, the current Official Rules, as amended, allow the usage of such funds for expenses related to community events and activities by members of the Senate. This significantly changes and obscures the original intent of the monthly allowance.
Thank you for your candid reporting and for stimulating good governance in the Marianas. Please let me know if you need any other information. I will make myself available for any questions that you may have.
Si Yu'us Ma'ase,
/s/ Senator Paul A. Manglona