- Published on Wednesday, August 08, 2012 00:00
- Written by By Andrew O. De Guzman - Reporter
- Hits: 3581
THE Office of Public Auditor’s legal counsel has declined to engage in a “verbal tussle” with Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham who accused the former assistant AG of having a “personal agenda” against the AG.
“I’ll let the court records speak for itself,” OPA legal counsel George L. Hasselback told Variety yesterday when asked to comment to the AG’s statements to KSPN on Monday.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Buckingham told KSPN, “shame on OPA, shame on George Hasselback who has a personal agenda against me. You know, let’s just get that stuff on the table.I think the timing was not accidental. It was…last-second and it was intended to be embarrassing and distracting and interfering. Basically what happened [was] one business hour of notice. It was like something done at 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. I found out from [Assistant AG] Gil Birnbrich and he told me as of 4:20 that now he had heard about it. And that was the first that either one of us had heard about it.”
The AG added, “I had no intention of being in Saipan on Monday morning. I had family plans which I had arranged months earlier to…leave the island.”
He said to be “summoned on Friday afternoon when it’s known that I [was] going to be leaving, with no coordination [with] our office — that’s not a question of why won’t I show up to defend something that happened two years earlier. Please.”
Buckingham added, “Do I respect [OPA’s] prosecutorial discretion? Absolutely. Do I also recognize when something is personal and retaliatory? I also recognize that. Now let’s talk about Mr. Hasselback. Mr. Hasselback was previously a member of [the AG’s office]. And when [he] resigned, one of the reasons he [mentioned] — I knew he wasn’t happy that I didn’t appoint him chief prosecutor — he told me that one of the reasons he was leaving [was] that he disagreed in my decision to terminate a person who was a friend of his. I did so for reasons that were appropriate then [and] they’re appropriate now.”
Asked by KSPN if he plans to return to the CNMI, he replied, “I’m the attorney general of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. I’m currently on leave.”
Former Lt. Gov. Jesus C. Borja, in a separate interview, welcomed the filing of charges against Buckingham.
The Democratic candidate for delegate in 2010, Borja, who is also a former associate justice, was one of the individuals who filed a complaint against Buckingham relating to the controversial “meet and greet” party the AG hosted at Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s residence for the administration’s delegate candidate.
“It’s about time,” said Borja, referring to the OPA’s complaint against Buckingham.
“I believe it was unethical and improper at that time, and I still believe until now,” Borja added.
Buckingham was also charged with misconduct in public office for approving the $492,000 sole-source contract awarded by the governor to former Secretary of Commerce Mike Ada’s Integrated Professionals Solution.
On Monday, Hasselback submitted an amended complaint against Buckingham relating to the events that unfolded on Friday, and leading to the AG’s departure on early Saturday morning, with “armed escort” services provided by the Department of Public Safety and the Commonwealth Ports Authority ports police.
Hasselback said the AG “used every tool to evade proper service of penal summons.”
On Monday after the court issued its $50,000 bench warrant against Buckingham, Hasselback told reporters that OPA “will be investigating what happened on Friday night and Saturday morning because I believe there’s good cause to investigate them. Because I believe that public personnel, funds and equipment were used in the commission of the crimes.”
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