Washington D.C. – The Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, Tony Babauta, has released a brief statement on the developments surrounding the charges against CNMI’s Attorney General, Edward Buckingham.
Babauta said that the Office of Insular Affairs ” is aware of the allegations of illegal activities” and they “will continue to watch this case as it develops.”
The CNMI Office of Public Auditor filed a criminal complaint last week against Buckingham over his approval of a $400,000 sole-source American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] management contract which was awarded in October 2010 to Michael Ada. Ada got the contract just days after stepping down as CNMI Commerce Secretary. Buckingham is also accused of hosting a delegate candidate’s party at Gov. Fitial’s house in August 2010, in violation of CNMI law.
The charges were filed last Friday, 2 days after Buckingham announced he was resigning and leaving island.
Buckingham attempted to avoid being served the summons to appear in court and, as PNC’s Saipan Correspondent Brad Ruszala reported last Saturday, Buckingham was assisted in that effort by Saipan Police who escorted him to the Saipan airport early Saturday morning and blocked access to him by both reporters and the OPA’s process server. However an FBI agent was eventually successful in delivering the summons to Buckingham before he boarded a flight to Tokyo.
Buckingham then released a statement Sunday rescinding his resignation saying he would stay on in the office, but he didn’t show up in Court as ordered Monday and Superior Court Judge David Wiseman issued a warrant for Buckingham’s arrest. The OPA has now filed new charges against Attorney General Buckingham. Those charges are obstructing justice and interference with service of process, and misconduct in public office.
In response to a request for comment on these developments by PNC’s Washington Bureau, Babauta issued the following statement:
“OIA is aware of the allegations of illegal activities against those entrusted by the community for their public service which tend to tarnish the reputations of countless of others who work in government.”
“Public corruption is intolerable.”
“The OIA has worked closely with island leadership to promote transparent and accountable governments and we will continue to watch this case as it develops. We are pleased that these matters are being swiftly acted upon by the CNMI executive and judicial branches.”