Straddling the ethics boundary

Where everyone is related to everyone else, conflict of interest abounds but cultural factors often allow violators to go unpunished

Senator James Espaldon is facing censure and other disciplinary actions based on the legislative ethics committee findings that he breached the Code of Ethics and Standards. The case stemmed from a complaint filed by CNMI Rep. Ed Propst, who took Espaldon to task for negotiating an $11-milion power plant deal with the Commonwealth Commission on Utilities on behalf of General Pacific Services Marianas Inc., a company co-owned by his former chief-of-staff, Phil Roberto. The controversy surrounding this transaction prompted CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres to shut the deal down.

James Espaldon

In Washington, D.C., Guam’s delegate to Congress Madeleine Bordallo is similarly in hot water, facing ethics scrutiny for, among other charges, accepting freebies from a luxury resort owned and run by her relatives. Preliminary investigation by the House ethics committee found that Bordallo may have violated rules, standards of conduct and federal law when she availed herself of free meals, lodging and other luxury amenities that ran up to $362,077.56 for a total of 663 nights’ stay at Outrigger Hotel since 2008. The Tumon hotel, founded by her late brother-in-law Alfred Ysrael and her sister Dianne, is currently controlled by Bordallo’s nephew, Michael Ysrael.