Sen. James Espaldon violated the Code of Ethics and Standards when he brokered a transaction with the CNMI government on behalf of a private company, according to the Guam Legislature’s ethics committee which recommended that the senator be censured, stripped of his leadership positions and required to take a 16-hour refresher course in government ethics.
“Ethical standards exist to express accepted expectations of conduct, and they are established not only to bring clarity and adherence to these expectations, but to ensure that shared principles are honored as well,” said Sen. Fernando Estevez, chairman of the legislative ethics committee.
“It is imperative, however, to also understand that the realm of ethics, unlike that of law, is inherently subjective and that these findings and recommendations alone do not reflect on Senator Espaldon’s person or character,” Estevez added
The committee on Tuesday submitted to the legislative body a copy of Resolution 239-34, which contains its findings and recommendations. Based on standing rules, the body may either adopt the committee’s recommendations by 10 votes or impose other disciplinary actions including, suspension or discharge.”
The ethics panel’s investigation was based on a complaint filed by CNMI Rep. Ed Propst, who raised the conflict of interest claims against Espaldon for his key participation in the negotiation between General Pacific Services Marianas Inc. and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp for the $11-million purchase of a generator set.
The controversy surrounding the deal had prompted CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres to cancel the transaction and revamp the CUC.
Espaldon issued a brief statement expressing remorse for his actions.
“The ethics complaint has been an ordeal for me, my family, and the people of Guam and I am sorry that I have caused them any pain or embarrassment. I have learned some hard lessons from this experience,” he said.
“I hold my position as senator to be a matter of public trust and I have always attempted to live up to that trust. Since this matter will now go before the full legislative body for a final resolution, I expect an open, fair and honest discussion of the charge against me,” he added.
Espaldon said he will issue further comments during the Legislature’s deliberation of the resolution in the next session.
The committee found Espaldon had a conflict of interest when he mediated on behalf of GPSM, whose executives include his former chief of staff, Phil Roberto, Robert and Amellia Toelkes.
The committee also determined that Espaldon received “personal gains” when GPSM and Robert and Amellia Toelkes paid for his meals, airfare, and other travel expenses in at least one trip to Korea and several trips to Saipan during the negotiation for the power plant purchase.
“The committee finds that Senator Espaldon in fact knew and in any event should have known that GPSM and Robert and Amellia Toelkes sought to use his influence as a senator in order to influence the CUC,” the resolution states.
“With regards to the investigative process and hearing, the committee limited any bias by considering the perception of a reasonable observer. This consideration was crucial in our deliberation,” Estevez said. “The ultimate decision rests with the body.”
Propst said he was satisfied that the Guam ethics panel validated his complaint against Espaldon.