By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) The taxpayers of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands paid for Gov. Ralph Torres, first lady Diann Tudela Torres, and his entire cabinet to row or fly to Rota for a Republican Party rally on April 13, 2018. The taxpayers even paid for his Ocean View Suite at the Rota Resort and Country Club while there.
An April 9, 2018 memo from the governor to his cabinet and activity heads instructs them to charter their flights to Rota for a "Cabinet meeting on Friday, April 13, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. at the Office of the Mayor of Rota in Songsong."
Yes, the cabinet did meet with the the governor - at a Republican Party rally in Rota. All of their travel and per diem to get there was paid by the taxpayers of the CNMI.
Travel documents turned in by Mr. and Ms. Torres indicate they had 'lost' their boarding passes for the Star Marianas Air flight from Saipan to Rota on April 12, then Rota to Saipan on April 13. In lieu of the boarding passes, which are evidence that the money paid from the CNMI treasury to Ralph and Diann Torres for their travel actually was spent on the airline tickets, the couple instead turned in the SMA airline booking request forms. These forms confirm nothing.
The travel authorization document, however, reveals that the governor arrived in Rota by boat. Witnesses of the voyage tell Kandit that he took a boat in order to carry beer and liquor for the rally to Rota.
Special Assistant to the Administration Shirley Camacho-Ogumoro and Director of Finance and Accounting Bernadita C. Palacios approved the payment of a $115 stipend to Mr. Torres, $230 for his hotel stay in Rota, and $115 for his travel cost. In total, the taxpayers forked out $470 for him, and that does not include public funds spent to fund the travel of Ms. Torres and of the governor's cabinet for this political event.
According to a receipt from the Rota Resort and Country Club, the governor and the first lady stayed two nights in the beautiful 4-bedroom Ocean View Suite, before checking out on April 14, 2018.
Efraim Atalig is the Republican mayor of Rota. Ironically, Mr. Atalig and his girlfriend are fighting federal charges of wire fraud and other crimes of corruption because of a trip they took to Guam for a Republican Party event at the expense of the CNMI taxpayers around the same time period as this so-called cabinet meeting.
Mr. Atalig's trial has been continued to next year following Chief Judge Ramona Manglona's recent approval of a motion regarding information pertaining to, among others, Gov. Torres, in Mr. Atalig's case.