CNMI – Questions Abound Regarding Governor’s Attorney’s Fees

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CNMI Governor Ralph Torres has responded to the Judiciary on Governmental Operations recent concerns over his attorney fees.

During a recent House Ways and Mean Committee meeting within the CNMI Legislature, JGO Chair – Celina Babauta – questioned NMI Secretary of Finance David Atalig – on how Governor Ralph Torres – was able to acquire over $120,000 for attorney fees.

In response, Atalig reports that a majority of the funds is from their provisions of government allocation – where he says that they have funding available to the level of 2019’s budget. Which Atalig says that he reported to the current legislature.

In response to the JGO’s concern over Governor Torres’s Attorney Fees, Torres stated quote, “Everyone has a right to counsel. Most especially CNMI government employees who are hauled in to testify before the JGO Committee hearings.”

Moreover, Torres reports that all the NMI government employees, including himself, were served a subpoena. And justified the use of private attorney representation, because those witnesses were denied representation from the Attorney General due to possible conflicts of interest.

The Governor then expressed how the fees could have been avoided altogether and how the NMI legislature is at fault – stating quote, “The JGO Committee is to blame for these private attorney expenses. These witnesses, who were subpoenaed in their official capacities, are not experts in these legal formal proceedings.”

According to the office of JGO Chair – Celine Babauta – they dispute the Governor’s contention that they are to blame for the private attorney fees. And that the Governor’s public statement was meant to deflect his recent luxury expenditures.

Don Sulat, PNC News First

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Born and raised on the island of Saipan, Don moved to Guam in the Spring of 2016 to pursue higher education at the University of Guam. It was at UOG that Don discovered his passion for keeping his peers politically informed. Prior to joining PNC Don gained professional and life experience through a variety of odd jobs ranging from an administrative assistant to a bouncer to a luxury retail salesman. In his free time, you can find him flying his drone or doing landscape and portrait photography. Don joined the PNC News Team not only to broaden his writing skill but also to challenge himself to get in front of the camera, ultimately furthering his passion to promote an informed and politically engaged Mariånas. Don's beat is Court, Crime, and Regional and is also PNC's Lead Reporter.