Sen. Jim Espaldon responds to allegations of ethical violationWritten by Rebecca Elmore
Guam - Allegations of an ethics violation have surfaced at the legislature, this time, involving Republican Senator Jim Espaldon.
“Taking my responsibilities as Speaker and realizing that under Rule 19 on the standing rules, it was my decision in early January to appoint the members of the commission,” said Speaker Cruz.
The Speaker says he tasked the committee to prepare in case an ethics violation popped up.
Reports all the way from Saipan circulated that the Republican lawmaker and his chief of staff were both entangled in procurement dealings that has since sparked questions of conflict of interest.
The Saipan Tribune connected the Guam senator to organization Guam Pacific Services Marianas Inc., who was questioned for his involvement in the procurement of a megawatt generator. Reports leaked that Espaldon's chief of staff served as the spokesman and representative for GPSM while the senator also provided his services as legal counsel.
But the senator tells PNC this morning that the entire situation is "definitely overblown" adding, "I only provided legal assistance as a private citizen. My specific role was to help this team of companies led by GPSM to negotiate a potential contract. Basically, I was asked to head up that team," he said.
Espaldon says reports of him acting as legal counsel are false for two reasons: “One, I have no jurisdiction in the CNMI and the second, is that I placed my legal license as ‘inactive’ on the Guam bar. So I can't even practice. I wasn't even there as an attorney, I was there as a negotiator.”
According to the Guam Legislature's Code of Ethics and Standards for the legislative branch: "The committee shall accord any person accused of violating the Code of Ethics and Standards every opportunity to speak before the legislature body." But, without a formal complaint, the ethics committee members cannot act unless a violation is officially filed.
Ethics committee member, Senator Regine Bisco Lee’s Office explained that the committee is authorized to investigate alleged violations, "if, and only if, said complaint has been filed with the Committee in the matter prescribed herein.”
And as of this morning, Speaker Cruz verified that the ethics committee has not received an official ethics complaint and the last time a formal complaint was filed took place in 2012.
The new Ethics Committee is comprised of Senators Wil Castro, Tom Ada, Regine Bisco Lee, Telena Nelson, Fernando Esteves, and Therese Terlaje.