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CNMI Gov. Torres facing impeachment

CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Saipan-- Four days after turning his back on a subpoena issued by a CNMI House panel, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres is now facing the possibility of being impeached ahead of the election year.

House Resolution 22-14, released today, cited corruption and neglect of duty as grounds for impeachment. The 20-member CMMI House of Representatives adopted the resolution on an 11-8 vote.

Torres, who is running for re-election next year, is currently attending campaign fundraisers that kicked off in Guam last Tuesday.

In June, the House’s Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee started its investigation into the governor’s use of public funds for personal purposes and travels.

Several witnesses were called and testified except for Torres who after a no-show at the hearing last Monday. He later filed a motion to quash the subpoena stating that the proceedings were unlawful and invalid.

HR 22-14 listed specific events and corrupt practices that Torres allegedly committed.

HR 22-14 alleged that Torres committed utility theft in the amount of $177,000 “for unjustly and without legal authorization obtaining in excess of $177,000 in utility benefits from the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation for privately-owned residences during the period February 2015 through August 18 2021, to include exorbitant utility expenses associated with the commercial piggery that was operating on his residential property.”

It stated that between January 2016 through December 2019, Torres used his office to acquire “at least 54 first-class and/or business-class airline tickets for him and his wife Diann Torres,” in violation of restrictions on government-paid travels.

Other travel expenses show reimbursements of $919.10 for fuel used by the Department of Public Safety vessel on Sept. \ 17, 2017, and lodging expenses for himself, his wife and bodyguard during a trip to Rota amounting to $690 “despite having received per diem.”

Between May 27, 2017, and July 2021, Torres allegedly neglected his duty during a crisis and had 85 boating trips to the Northern Islands, Tinian, Rota and Guam using DPS resources. Many of these trips were recreational outings with his family at the time when the CNMI had just been hit by super typhoon Yutu.

The resolution also said the governor “unlawfully and fraudulently obtained reimbursements for expenditures that include lavish hosting of individuals both named and unnamed” from December 2015 through December 2019.

He was also reimbursed for personal expenses that included items for hunting or camping, hardware supplies, electronics that include cameras, headphones, computers that were never used for public purposes.

The resolution also mentioned Torres’ non-appearance before a House committee hearing placed him in contempt of the legislature that amounts to neglect of duty.

HR 22-14 has yet to be heard and adopted by the House during the regular session, certified by the Speaker of the House and attested to by the House clerk before being sent to Senate President Jude U. Hofsehneider.

The governor's office has not released any comment on the House resolution as of this writing.

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