IN an Open Government Act request dated Sept. 17, 2021 and addressed to Rep. Celina R. Babauta, Office of the Governor legal counsel Gilbert J. Birnbrich is seeking access to inspect and/or copy public records in the possession of the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.
These include any record of letters or other communications from Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez authorizing the committee, which is chaired by Babauta, to conduct legislative investigation into the governor’s public expenditures, among other things.
It also includes any audio recordings, audio-visual recordings, transcripts, exhibits, or other documents entered into record or used during the hearings of police officer Jomalyn Gelacio, Financial and Accounting Services director Bernadita Palacios, Special Assistant for Administration Mathilda Rosario, Chief of Motor Vehicles Juana Deleon Guerrero, Boating Safety officer Adrian Mendiola, Boating Safety officer Emery Kaipat, and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, as well as the affidavit or declaration submitted to the committee by Erin V. Camacho, a private citizen.
Moreover, Birnbrich is requesting access to any and all subpoenas — whether they be for testimony or for the production of documents — and any and all communications to executive branch departments and agencies requesting documents or other information — whether it be by letter or other written form, and whether it be by physical or electronic form — issued by the committee since the beginning of the 22nd CNMI Legislature.
He also requested access to Journals of the Day for July 1, 2, 6, 15, 16, and 20; Aug. 9, 24, and 25; and Sept. 15, 2021.
Birnbrich requested that the committee produce these public records within 10 days of his Open Government Act request.
In an interview with KUAM News’ Thomas Manglona, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said he had yet to receive a subpoena from the House committee.
“I’ve [said] this in the beginning. I’ve said [to the committee], ‘Hey, call me in so we can hash this out and answer these questions, the concerns that you have.’ Yet, it’s been several months [already]. They never did that. They’re choosing this route. They’ve brought in officers. They’ve [subpoenaed] other people and yet, they haven’t called me. Apparently, they already have a goal, an agenda before all this process, so we’ll deal with that when it comes.... They’ve already voted as a committee to subpoena, so I’ll wait until that subpoena comes, if it comes.”
Torres also said that “there’s no reason for me to resign."
For her part, the committee chair, Rep. Celina Babauta said: “We have not issued [Governor Torres’] subpoena ad testificandum yet. It was approved in a previous committee meeting though. We still have several witnesses to summon before we issue his subpoena. We don’t have an estimated timeline as we have to work with the schedule of the committee members and most especially the availability of the [House] chamber.”