Pohnpei files a third set of criminal charges against former Chief Justice Rodriguez
- Category: News
- Published: Thursday, 21 December 2017 15:34
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
December 11, 2017
Pohnpei—Pohnpei has filed a third set of criminal charges against former Pohnpei Chief Justice Benjamin Rodriguez accusing him of six counts of Misconduct in Office.
The fives counts all relate to a checking account at the Bank of Guam Pohnpei branch maintained since 2009 outside of the reach or control of the Department of Treasury and Administration in the name of the Pohnpei State Supreme Court, allegedly under Rodriguez’ direction and control.
The first count of Misconduct in Public Office has to do with the very existence of the account which prosecutors allege violated the Financial Management Act of Pohnpei. On June 10, 2014 the Pohnpei State Auditor issued a Management Advisory to the Pohnpei Supreme Court saying that the account was in violation of the act and should be immediately closed and all proceeds from the account forwarded to the Pohnpei Treasury. The Court did not close down the account.
Count two says that between 2009 and the time that he resigned at the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court he failed to report either any of the activities of the account at the Bank of Guam to the Pohnpei Legislature. The count alleges that he continued to fail to report the activities of the account even after he was advised in 2014 by the State Auditor that the account was in violation of the law.
Count three alleges that he improperly made payments out of the Bank of Guam account outside of the purview of the Department of Treasury and Administration. It says that such an act was a violation of laws that require government funds to be disbursed only by authorization and appropriation by Pohnpei law or to liquidate a valid obligation.
Count four alleges that Rodriguez “made deposits of checks or accepted direct deposits that were made payable to the Pohnpei Supreme Court from donors, obligors or persons making fee payments to the Supreme Court, and other third parties…” The charges allege that some of those payments were for trips undertaken by the Chief Justice for judicial training or to attend conferences sponsored by non-Pohnpei Government entities.
Count five alleges that Rodriguez used the Bank of Guam account to cover up improper activity such as payment of stipends while also receiving full per diem for travel. The charges say that in addition to receiving those deposits outside of legally acceptable means, he then drew checks to reimburse himself for per diem and travel expenses after also collecting money from the State government for the same travels.
Count six (incorrectly labeled as a second “Count five” in the charges) accused the former Chief Justice of using the Bank of Guam account to accept and disburse funds from parties in active cases where he was the presiding Justice.
At press time, Mr. Rodriguez had not yet had his day in court and is presumed to be innocent of the charges unless the court otherwise decides after full hearings.