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House panel readies subpoenas

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SUBPOENAS have already been drafted and will be sent out once a special House committee decides to issue them to the executive branch and other agencies, Rep. Tina Sablan said on Thursday.

Friday marked the deadline for the House minority bloc members to submit their list of  pending records to subpoena from the Department of Finance, said Sablan who is a member of the House Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures.

She said the pending documents included travel records from the governor, redacted records — including credit card numbers that were used for the governor’s reimbursements.

“We counted at least 17 [credit cards], possibly up to 20, maybe even more,” she added.

She said the special committee was also awaiting other pending documents from Finance, such as personnel records, missing notice of personnel actions for the executive security detail.

“We are actually going back to the original Open Government Act request, just to [take] one more look at all of the records that we asked for, and then another review of the records that we actually received and the ones that we know are missing,” Sablan said.

She said the committee has “subpoena powers pursuant to our rules, so what we expect to happen [this] week is a review and a vote on the first set of subpoenas that will go out.”

 

Rep. Tina Sablan addresses her colleagues during the House Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures, organizational meeting in the House chamber earlier this month. 

Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

The subpoenas will be issued to the Department of Public Safety, the Office of the Northern Islands Mayor, the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, the Department of Finance, as well as any and all agencies involved in the “Deer Meat for Dinner” Northern Islands promotional trip.

Sablan said they may also subpoena Imperial Pacific International regarding the community benefit fund.

She said civil penalties can be imposed on those who ignore the subpoenas.

“We certainly hope that agencies comply with their subpoenas,” she said, adding that the goal of the special committee is “accountability and restoring the trust in the CNMI government.”

She said they “have been asked by our constituents, concerns have been raised about these expenditures by the governor, and it is our job to investigate, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Secretary of Finance David Atalig, for his part, said during a press briefing on KKMP radio on Friday morning that based on federal law, his department will not undo the redaction of sensitive information unless subpoenaed.

“I will not give out Social Security numbers. I will not give out credit card information and dates of birth. Those are protected information under federal law,” he said.

“We have our Disclosure Act. We are bound by IRS disclosure laws, so I stand firm on that unless I’m subpoenaed or if I go to court for it.”

He reiterated that the special committee has “enough information for whatever they’re investigating. The documents are there. I just redacted personal information.”

The House Special Committee on Fiscal Review of Executive Expenditures will be meeting this Wednesday to vote on the subpoenas.

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