By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Ralph Torres and his wife, Diann, were not the only people who benefitted from illegal purchases reimbursed to them by the Commonwealth's taxpayers. Yvette Sablan, his very special assistant for substance abuse issues purchased $1,221.97 of supplies from Ace Hardware CNMI, Inc. to renovate her office in 2016.
The purchases were purportedly conducted by Mr. Torres, but the reimbursement and receipt documents clearly show that the items would be delivered to Ms. Sablan. The purchases did not go through the procurement process, which makes the use of public money illegal.
But that's not all. A second reimbursement memo shows the governor purchased fireworks for $288 for Ms. Sablan without procurement authority. And a third reimbursement memo shows the Commonwealth hosted a barbecue in violation of the procurement code for Ms. Sablan at a total cost of $246.92.
These three sets of documents are unique among the reimbursement documents Kandit has thus far reviewed. This is the first time we are seeing that someone other than Mr. or Ms. Torres have benefitted beyond t-shirts or food from the misuse of public funds through Governor's Office reimbursement documents.
All the reimbursements were applied for by Mr. Torres and approved by then-Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson between 2016 and 2018.
The fireworks receipt shows a credit card ending in 6500 was used to make the purchase. That is one of the credit cards listed in a previous Kandit story regarding the use of 17 different credit cards used by Mr. Torres to purchase personal items and receive public reimbursement.
The Ace Hardware receipt shows the use of a credit card ending in 5526, which also is on the list of 17 credit cards purportedly used by the governor to purchase items prior to the public reimbursing him for those purchases.
Interestingly, the Ace Hardware sales receipt lists the purchaser as Ralph Torres with the phone number 285-4682. The delivery invoice for Ace Hardware lists the recipient as Yvette Sablan, with the same phone number: 285-4682.
A conspicuously similar phone number, 285-4681, is or was listed to Ms. Sablan's sister-in-law, Joaquina "Kina" Borja, whom Ms. Sablan hired to work in her office using public funds.
The icing on the cake
The misuse of public funds to the benefit of this very special assistant did not stop at the procurement violations or the special and unauthorized treatment. On the delivery invoice listing Yvette Sablan's name is a notation, "PLS DELIVER TO MARPI. TO BE RECVD BY DPS OFFICER."
Ms. Sablan is not the first lady. She is not entitled to executive security protection by the Department of Public Safety. And even if she were, the use of police officers to receive your hardware or to be your tentagu not only is demeaning to their profession, but also is illegal.