OPINION | False press reports

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HAFA Adai and Tiroow my dear people of our Commonwealth.

Since the FBI executed search warrants at my office and home on November 7, 2019, there have been numerous irresponsible press reports about the investigation and baseless speculation about what I am supposed to have done. A particular social media outfit, working together with my political opponents, has fueled this wild speculation about the FBI investigation and has also made additional false attacks against me, my family and my administration.

Confident that I have done nothing wrong, I said in November that the governor’s office and I would cooperate with the investigation and that, once the actual evidence was considered, my name would be cleared. While I am every bit as confident that I will indeed be cleared, the campaign against me has spilled over to my wife, my family and others in and out of government who in no way deserve this type of treatment. So while I hoped to respect the process and let it run its course, I feel that I must tell you directly what is the truth and what are lies so that we can keep this administration on track to serve the best interest of the people of the Commonwealth.

Here are facts relevant to the FBI’s investigation:

• I have never been offered, nor have I accepted, any money or benefit in return for any decision I have made or any other official act. The speculation that I have been “paid off” by Imperial Pacific in return for official acts is wrong. Every decision I have made about casino gambling on Saipan has been based upon what I believe was in the best interest of the Commonwealth and its people. People can disagree about what is in the best interest of the Commonwealth, and I welcome that discussion. But to suggest that I did something corrupt to help the casino is flat out wrong and I will do everything in my power to fight this untrue allegation.

• My brothers, Vince, Vic and Jack run the Torres Brothers law firm. I have no financial interest in their firm. I have never promised to do anything in return for any fee they may have earned or any real estate transaction they participated in. In all of my decision-making, I never considered how some client of their firm, or business associate of theirs, might benefit. Further, I believe my brothers were never offered a business opportunity or legal work in the hope that I might look favorably on a client or business associate of theirs. All of the speculation and rumors about pay-offs to my brothers are wrong.

• There is no secret stash of cash at my house or anywhere else. I have no offshore bank accounts. The FBI searches found nothing. They even dug up the pig sty on my property in their misguided effort to find cash. Again, nothing. All of the rumors about millions in cash are just that: baseless rumors.

• I have never knowingly received or solicited any campaign contribution from any company or individual that is unauthorized by law. There was an article stating that IPI contributed to the campaign, but it failed to mention that the contribution was never used and was returned when it was determined by the committee that it was not a contribution that could be accepted.

But the misinformation campaign goes way beyond what the FBI may be looking into. Some of these allegations are petty. Others are mean-spirited. What is clear is that they are motivated by a desire to hurt me politically, or worse. Some examples of just how outlandish these accusations are include a charge that I submitted a request for reimbursement for my wife’s purchase of fifty-four cans of Vienna Sausage, three bags of coffee, and two containers of salt, among other items, insinuating they were for her personal consumption. These purchases were in fact provided to the traditional voyagers who were here and staying at the Carolinian Utt, having sailed from Palau and the FSM, and were preparing their accompaniment of the CNMI canoe to the Festival of the Pacific Arts in Guam. The purpose of the purchase was clearly indicated on the receipt, a fact the social media post chose to ignore.

I have also been accused of purchasing a camera, speakers, and other equipment for my personal use. These allegations are likewise false. The equipment they characterized as a personal purchase, was actually purchased for and turned over to our press office.

An especially mean-spirited accusation stated that I illegally purchased materials to renovate the office of the H.O.P.E. Rehabilitation Center director, and that these were delivered to a DPS officer. This posting falsely alleged for some reason that this officer was her personal security detail. I worked closely with the judicial branch, medical professionals, counselors, and others to set up the H.O.P.E Rehabilitation Center to provide comprehensive counseling for drug users and an alternative to prison for individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses. The new program did not have the funding or resources initially to acquire the materials for renovations to the center and other activities.

The supposed personal security for the director is actually an officer stationed at the center to ensure security for everyone there, due to the nature of the work at the center and the court-assigned live-in clients. This gross distortion of the facts not only hurts the personnel who have invested a lot of hard work to set up a very effective program, but smears a very worthwhile and important mission of this government. I am proud of supporting the H.O.P.E. Center and I will continue to do so because I believe that there is hope for those wanting a second chance at good life.

Equally disturbing was a charge made that I provided lavish dinners for Guam-based businesses and organizations who made donations towards the Yutu relief effort. This is another complete mischaracterization of the actual facts. These non-profit organizations and businesses from Guam went through great effort and expense to collect four 40-foot containers of relief supplies, collectively valued at over $100,000, for the people of the CNMI. They also covered the costs of shipping those donations here. They invited me to dinner. The least I could do to thank these individuals for their efforts to bring this substantial relief to the people of the CNMI was to cover the cost of that dinner. It was the decent thing to do on behalf of the people of the CNMI, and was a small gesture to express our gratitude to them.

Another purposefully misleading allegation stated that I’d purchased a number of lavish meals for one person, when in fact the featured receipt reflected the day, time, and place of the hosting of a dinner for the President of Palau, which included members of the business community, the local Palauan community, and other officials.

My brothers, whom I love very dearly, have been accused of using their relationship with me to gain lucrative governmental contracts. The reality is quite the opposite. Prior to my election to the House of Representatives in 2008, my brothers, like many local attorneys, had various contracts with the CNMI government. In order to alleviate all inferences of any conflicts of interest, they have avoided contracts with the government since 2008 and had withdrawn as counsel from one many years ago. They are all still practicing attorneys who make their livelihoods in the CNMI representing residents and businesses, but they have avoided representing the CNMI government.

To be absolutely clear, I have not, nor has any member of my family, ever used public funds to acquire any item or service for personal use. Not once.

It is not in my nature to engage in personal or political attacks that would be counter to fostering an environment where we can all work together to address our most important matters. “Un Familia, Un Guinaiya, Tipiyeew” is more than just a campaign slogan to me. We work better, move forward faster, and we are stronger, when we work together as one family. This is why, despite the very acrimonious nature of the last election, I was very pleased that the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate put that election rancor behind them, attempting to build bridges and bring everyone to the table through the appointment of minority members to the various committees. It is unfortunate that some members of the minority in the Legislature did not opt to accept that olive branch, instead ramping up their efforts to create deeper division.

When I committed myself to public service nearly twelve years ago as a Representative and at the youthful age of 28, I made this commitment for one reason and one reason only, to help improve the lives of the residents of my home the CNMI. In everything I have done and every decision I have made, from my time at the House of Representatives, to the Senate, to my tenure as the Lt. Governor alongside my mentor Governor Eloy Inos, to my current role as Governor, I’ve endeavored to achieve that one goal.

To the best of my ability, I will continue to carry out the work of the people. This is my duty. The people did not elect me to spend my days in petty political squabbles or to play political games to better position myself for future elections. That is not why I was elected, and that is not why I’m here.

I would like voters to measure me on my record of accomplishments, not the number of political fights I have picked.

Thank you to those who continue to carry out the work of this great Commonwealth, who continue to toil daily to get us beyond disaster recovery, and who endeavor to bring the community together to work towards our common goal of improving the lives of all of our residents. Most of all, thank you to my wife and partner Diann and our children. This has been a trying time for my family, and I am extremely blessed to have them in my life and by my side.

I am extremely proud of our accomplishments and will continue to work for many more in this time of service.

Thank you and I look forward to getting back to work that benefits our people.

“Un Familia, Un Guinaiya, Tipiyeew.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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