By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) While the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Education begs the Torres administration for money, leaked documents from the CNMI Governor's Office reveal the gross misuse of public funds by Gov. Ralph Torres.
A January 30, 2019 reimbursement memo from Mr. Torres to his Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson shows that Ms. Larson approved $5,388.11 in reimbursements to the governor spanning purchases made from November 18, 2018 through January 28, 2019.
Nearly all of the purchases were for services and items for his personal use or in his business interests, and not for the official functions of his office; yet, the CNMI taxpayers paid for it.
The purchases were made by the governor, either with cash or by use of his personal card, in Saipan, Guam, Japan, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Idaho, where the governor owns a ranch. He even bought personal audio equipment - expensive headphones, etc. - aboard the airplanes he took traveling to and from these places.
As Kandit reported Tuesday, one of the purchases was for a $189 bottle of scotch he bought at the T Galleria at the Saipan airport on January 7, 2019, when he flew to Guam for the inaugural ceremonies of the new legislature. A hand-written memo on the receipt notes "Gift for Guam Senator Will Castro."
But the receipts attached to the memo reveal a lavish lifestyle Mr. Torres led during those two months, all on the public dime.
The governor hosted his business partners on the public dime several times. On December 1, 2018, he paid for their meals at Sakura Dining House in Tamuning, Guam, costing the CNMI taxpayers $79. A few days later he lavished his business partners with a $159.50 crab, oyster, spaghetti, and risotto dinner at a San Francisco restaurant.
He spent the CNMI's people money again hosting his business partners in Washington, D.C. to a $119 meal of king crab legs and Stella Artois beer.
At King's restaurant in Tamuning, Guam, the CNMI taxpayers paid for his business partners's breakfast: $132.85.
His largest business expense hosting his business partners to lavish meals occurred at the Westin Resort Guam, where the CNMI taxpayers spent $900 to feed 20 of his business partners.
CNMI's taxpayers also forked out hundreds of dollars for fine dining for Guam officials. On January 23, the governor hosted the Ayuda Foundation from Guam to ribeye, tenderloin, sirloin, and seafood combos, along with foie gras at the Fiesta Resort Saipan for a total of $503.
On January 15, he hosted Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. They ate sashimi and nine lunch buffets, for a total bill to the CNMI taxpayers of $314.
In Idaho, where his family ranch is, the governor went to Walmart and bought himself a GoPro Hero 7, several expensive micro SD cards, a GoPro jaw, and other items of personal use. The CNMI people spent $713.38 for these expenses at this WalMart trip.
The other WalMart shopping spree he went on cost the CNMI taxpayers $417.35. At that WalMart, he bought two $54 70-quart coolor, earbuds, USB chargers, soft candy, and Cheetos.
Several receipts from InMotion Entertainment, which is an airline-based retailer of expensive audio equipment and supplies, show that the governor used taxpayer funds to buy himself a $199 set of Bose SoundSport wireless headphones. He also bought himself a $449.99 black JBL BoomBox and $119 HubMax portable charger power bank, compliments of the people of the CNMI.