‘A dark cloud is hanging over the CNMI’

CNMI Lt. Gov Arnold Palacios

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

Saipan (Marianas Variety)--Saying that “there’s a dark cloud hanging over the CNMI,” Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios testified Wednesday before the Democrat-led House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, and agreed with most of its members’ statements regarding what they allege are Republican Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ extravagance, misuse of public funds and resources, questionable awarding of sole-source contracts, approval of overtime pay for cabinet officials, among other controversial public expenditures.

Palacios also said that he neither “spilled the beans” nor “threw” the governor “under the bus.”

"You have the ‘beans’ in your offices, in boxes of information you obtained from [the Department of] Finance through the Open Government Act,” he told the committee members. “I didn’t bring the beans. You have the right to look into the matter. And I didn’t throw him under the bus. He ran in front of the bus.”

Palacios said the governor should “come before this body. I hope he does, I really do. He says he has nothing to hide. The buck stops there.”

The governor declined to comment.

When asked by the committee chair, Rep. Celina R. Babauta, why, unlike the previous witnesses, he didn’t have counsel, the lt. governor said: “I don’t believe that the matters that are going to be discussed or the questions that are going to be asked require me to have counsel. And if I do believe that there’s a question that I may not be able to answer without a counsel then I’m gonna ask the committee to excuse that, but I come in response to the subpoena without a counsel today.”

Reading a prepared statement, Palacios said:

“Let me be candid with you. I never thought when I took the oath of office of the lt. governor that I would find myself in this position, having to respond to a subpoena to appear before this committee. I do so with much hesitancy…. To be at the center of your investigative proceedings places me in a very awkward position as lt. governor, but I am here…. The oversight responsibility of the Legislature I acknowledge as an important part of the checks and balances system upon which our Commonwealth was founded. I respect that and your role as legislators and members of a co-equal branch of government. I respect this process…. I will do my best to answer your questions to the best of my ability based on what I know.”