- Published on Thursday, August 02, 2012 00:00
- Written by By Kevin G. Bautista - Variety News Staff
- Hits: 2960
ATTORNEY General Edward T. Buckingham announced yesterday that he will resign as the commonwealth’s chief legal counsel and top law enforcement officer effective this Friday, Aug. 3.
He will leave the commonwealth on Sunday, Aug. 5, to join his wife, Pam, who is already in the states.
In an interview with the media yesterday at his office, Buckingham said he has to take care of family matters.“I’ve been with the Office of the Attorney General since 2003. I’ve worked for the civil division for three years, the criminal division for three years, and as an attorney general for three years, but there are other numbers. My wife and I have been married for 37 years, and she has completed her activities on the island as part of the staff of Northern Marianas College. I’m happily married, been happily married, and will stay happily married. She’s tolerated me for doing this, and I’m grateful that she has been patient with me. This is now her time and our time together,” he said.
In a statement, Press Secretary Angel Demapan said Gov. Benigno R. Fitial has yet to make a decision on who will be the acting AG.
“Governor Fitial understands that the attorney general’s decision was based on personal family matters. Nonetheless, the governor is very much grateful for the services of Mr. Buckingham to the commonwealth both as an assistant attorney general and as attorney general. The administration wishes him well as he embarks on a new chapter in his life,” Demapan said.
Buckingham said he and the governor have been talking about the resignation for some time and that they wanted to make the announcement at the very end of his tenure as attorney general so he can work until the last day.
He said he leaves the AG’s office with a sense of gratitude for how much he and his staff accomplished in the last three years, citing that the office had countless problems before his tenure as the government’s chief legal counsel.
Buckingham said these accomplishments included the reestablishment of the Attorney General’s Cup speech competition, the improvement of criminal case management, the strengthening of the office’s victim services, the transition of local immigration employees to new roles and positions when the office was shut down, his opinion on the 2010 government shutdown, in which he mandated that there will not be any back pay for legislators or access to funds, and his challenge of the Retirement Fund’s high attorney fees.
He also highlighted his creation of a performance-based culture at the AG’s office.
“I have been very clear of my performance expectations at this office. I expect all of us to work. If I have someone at the office who is not working hard, who is not contributing, and who is getting paid higher than someone who does work hard, I will terminate them, and if they don’t like it tough. I expect them to serve the commonwealth. I have no apologies for any of it.”
Working as a guest
Before he came to Saipan, Buckingham said he and his wife did a lot of reading and talking to people to get a sense of what they were heading into.
“We came here with three rules. Respect everyone. If given the opportunity, contribute and add value to the community. And remember that you’re a guest. I’ve been here for 10 years, but I know I’m a guest. I’m not from here or this culture. I try to be a good guest as best I can. We learned to respect different cultures. Before I came out here, I was a typical American. I wanted more. What I realize now, we have more than what we need. I developed an appreciation for the gifts we have and the value of sharing with others.”
Buckingham said his job is a high-profile one, and that he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with his decisions.
When asked about his involvement in an Aug. 2010 political gathering at the governor’s residence, in which he was accused of hosting a campaign party for Fitial’s congressional candidate, Joseph N. Camacho, he said the safer thing he should have done was to cancel the event.
“I invited my office to the party, but the governor invited [Camacho]. I could have cancelled the dinner. People have said I should have, that’s fair enough, but I made the decision in respect to the governor not to do that. I was also very clear that I did not endorse anybody. I paid for everything personally. People can have their opinions, and I respect that. I also immediately afterward recused myself from the election because of the public perception. I approached that one fairly and honestly.
When asked about his involvement in the Office of the Public Auditor’s investigation of the administration’s $400,000 sole-source contract award to former Commerce Secretary Michael Ada’s Integrated Professional Solutions to manage ARRA funds, Buckingham said OPA was initially silent when the governor requested the agency to check if the contract was ethical or not.
The governor was asking the OPA if it was ethical and they were silent on the matter. I looked at that and the auditor’s response. I then signed off the contract legally because OPA did not see any ethical problems at the time. But then they turned around and said that there are ethical problems. If OPA said ethical issues, I would not have signed that contract. I approved it because OPA did not cite ethical issues,” he clarified.
When asked about the growing public desire for an initiative that publicly elects the AG to be placed on the ballot, Buckingham said he is not in favor of the measure.
“Is the CNMI ready for an elected AG? People are saying that the AG must be independent. What does that mean? If it means the governor can do his thing, then I can do what I want. You would have two governors in the commonwealth. Guam went through a pretty rough period of time with an elected AG. The elected AG and the governor were constantly arguing with each other. Here, I don’t have conflicts with the governor. I recognize the governor as the head of the commonwealth, and the job of the AG is to advise the governor and the government’s agencies so we can represent the commonwealth the best we can. We represent the executive branch. We don’t represent individual agencies. We represent the executive branch and the commonwealth.”
When asked if he and Fitial disagreed with each other, Buckingham said he is not going to get into any details about that, but he did say that he did everything he could to have the his office support the commonwealth, the executive branch, and the governor.
He added that his job is to advise the governor.
“In terms of deciding on policies, the governor makes that authority, and I respect that.”
Buckingham said he wants to be remembered by the commonwealth as someone who worked really hard and improved the performance of the AG’s office.
“I want to be remembered as someone who expected everyone who works in this office to work hard and contribute, and someone who never claimed to be perfect.”
He said he made the office accessible to the public and the media.
“The Office of the Attorney General affects people’s lives in so many areas. We approve contracts, employment hiring, discipline of employees, and prosecution. We affect people’s lives across the commonwealth. It’s a significant office, and we owe the public access to what goes around here. I believe this office should do this.”
Buckingham said his plans upon leaving Saipan include going to San Francisco with his wife, because that is where his wife grew up and where he pursued his studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
“We’re going to hang out there and reconnect. That’s for a couple of months, and the future will unfold from there. My wife constantly reminded me that we spend an average about 18 minutes a day of time together, because I’ve been spending my days and nights working. That is what comes with this job. The job is intense, and I’ve always made sure that I did my job to the best of my ability, but now I just want some time with my wife.”
Buckingham said he is grateful and humbled for the work he has done as the commonwealth’s attorney general.
“I’m not claiming that what I have done is perfect, but I certainly did my best in the three years I have done this and it has been a privilege to serve the office and the people of the commonwealth.”
More Local News
- US court denies CPA motion for summary judgment
- Tinian student to graduate cum laude from Oregon State University
- Guam hospital has only $1.1M cash-on-hand
- Tinian nurse practitioner awarded National State Excellence Award
- PDM Promoters receive $2K from TSL Foundation
- 15 teams to join Corporate Challenge softball tournament
- Micronesian Repatriation Association to hold 44th memorial service on Sunday
- Pistang Pinoy to include ‘super’ gay model pageant
- US gov’t wants court to deny garment company’s motion to amend judgment, complaint
- Maximo Kapileo arrested for riot
- Gov’t employee: Settlement proceedings should not ignore refund laws
- Dotts: Arbitration with Merrill Lynch to start in June 2014
- Guam Museum launches Facebook page
- Pretrial motions submitted in Sen. Ayuyu cases
- Rep. Camacho wants to impose a $25 to $500 fine on those who don’t wear lifejackets
- Wiseman orders award of water project to USA Fanther Corp.
- Guam mayors to partner with Crime Stoppers
- Bicameral panel OKs amendment to civil-service law
- CHC says it’s focused on federal re-survey
- Civic center is this year's Liberation Day venue
- Flame tree damages 3 vehicles
- Police: Buckingham cooperative
- Retirement Fund depletion countdown