Pohnpei Chief Justice under legislative scrutiny for possible impeachment
- Category: News
- Published: Friday, 10 March 2017 10:31
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
Pohnpei—On February 6, Pohnpei’s Attorney General (AG) sent a letter to the Pohnpei State Legislature recommending that body to consider a resolution to present articles of impeachment against the Chief Justice of the Pohnpei Supreme Court. The letter was 28 pages long and also included approximately 200 pages of attached exhibits.
The matter was assigned to the Standing Committee on Judicial and Government Operations chaired by Senator Peter Lohn. The committee met on the matter on February 15 and another meeting was scheduled for February 24. Senator Lohn did not return our phone calls about the proceedings.
The letter says that annual reports submitted by the court to the Legislature “falsely overstated revenue collections when compared with receipts for the reporting period indicating intentional manipulation of the records and artificial inflation of collections by the Supreme Court.” It says that the Chief Justice has never responded to the management advisory and Compliance Investigation Report detailing over $123,000 of missing revenue.
The letter also detailed alleged incidences when Chief Justice Rodriguez received Pohnpei State Government funds for travel that had also been paid for by other outside sources. As one example, the letter says that Chief Justice Rodriguez was medically referred to the Philippines from April 5, 2011 through April 20, 2011 and was accompanied by his spouse. He was not on official travel, “however, he received per diem for 14 days for $2,142 and his wife’s travel was fully funded by the (State) government.” It claims that the medical referral was covered by MiCare and additionally inappropriately covered by the State through per diems.
The letter listed several “possible” criminal offenses that may or may not have been involved in the payments for that travel. “Throughout this report,” the letter says, “the word ‘possible’ means that which exists but the allegation is not certain or proved and the allegation is not a legal conclusion.”
It alleges that in 2011 a State government check was used to pay a personal medical bill at Genesis.
The letter provided documentation to support allegations that during several trips for Pacific Islands Education Programs, the US government paid for travel and per diems for Mr. Rodriguez to attend but that he also collected stipends or per diems from Pohnpei State government during those travels.
The letter also provided documentation to support allegations that on travels for training sessions financially supported by the Pacific Judicial Council, the Chief Justice also collected payments from Pohnpei State for official travel.
In each provided instance of alleged “double dipping” for travels, the Attorney General wrote that the list was not exhaustive but representative.
The AG’s letter also noted that the auditor’s investigation found that the Supreme Court has a checking account at the Bank of Guam. Financial activities taking place in that checking account were not reported in the Supreme Court’s Annual Reports to the Legislature and may have allowed for financial transactions to have taken place “beyond the scrutiny of the Director, Department of Treasury and Administration and outside the overview of the Legislature.”
It also says that the Chief Justice is the person responsible for the administration of the Court and the proper administration of funds but allegedly, over $123,000 of collections went missing and 1400 receipts were not accounted for.
The AG’s letter also listed 15 example private party cases that have seen little of no action by the court for several years. Some involve the Pohnpei State Government as a party. One of the cases listed was originally filed twelve years ago.
“Justice delayed is justice denied”, the letter to the legislature suggested.
“The information contained in this referral letter, with attachments, is transmitted to the Legislature without making any legal conclusion or judgment,” the letter said. “All questions and issues presented for consideration by the Legislature must be considered only as allegations referred to the Legislature for its deliberation and decision. All references to infractions, violations, offenses and crimes are stated as “possible” infractions, violations, offenses and crimes and are not the legal opinion of the author of this letter and are not submitted as legal conclusions or judgments. Some, but not all of the documents in the possession of the Public Auditor and Office of Attorney General are attached. All of the reports and documents garnered in this matter are available for inspection. Some inquiries made by the Office of Attorney General have not been responded to by third parties and additional relevant information and documents may become available in the future,” it concluded.
At press time, no representative of the legislature had provided feedback as to when a J&GO committee report on the letter might be presented to the full body of the legislature.