By Johnnie Rosario
Travel documents from Christmas 2018 through the new year in 2019 show Gov. Ralph Torres's bodyguard, Joey Cruz, flew first and business class several times during the duo's extended Christmas vacation.
"The Commonwealth Government shall not purchase or furnish for or reimburse to any employee, contractor, board member, or other person required to travel on behalf of the Government, its departments, divisions, agencies and autonomous agencies, an airline ticket for travel in first class, business class or any other premium class designation. Travel agents issuing tickets for government travel shall only be paid at the regular economy fare or its equivalent. Any government employee who causes an airline ticket to be issued in violation of this section shall pay a civil fine of one-thousand dollars." - 1 CMC §§ 740 (f)
Despite the plain reading of the law, Mr. Cruz flew from Saipan to Guam then Narita on business class on December 26, 2018 in the first two legs of his trip to meet up with Mr. Torres in Boise, Idaho. The governor left Saipan eight days earlier. Kandit has previously covered that trip in which the governor flew first or business class for every leg of his journey.
On their way back to Saipan, Mr. Cruz flew first class from Boise to San Francisco, and business class from Hong Kong to Guam then to Saipan.
The flights alone cost the Commonwealth taxpayers $2,241, and were booked by Century Travel Agency.
The taxpayers also gave Mr. Cruz $1,365 for per diem, and $1,252.12 so he could rent a car.
The trip was approved by Mr. Torres and by director of finance and accounting Bernadita C. Palacios.