Saturday, January 12, 2013

Marianas Milk-wolf in sheep's clothing

beautiful day, cool, breezy evening

This cartoon was inspired by recent events involving the Saipan Development LLC agreement with Governor Fitial to build a power plant for Saipan at the cost of $190 million dollars.  The PPA (power plant agreement) has come under a tremendous amount of scrutiny and criticism, with CUC officials saying it is a terrible deal, that it lacks the assurances and contract terms to protect the CNMI in even the most basic way as a party to a contract, that it is exorbitant in cost, and that there is no need for a new power plant.  There has also been concern that the PPA was tied to SDLLC having a side deal about the port development, but that does not appear in the contract. The PPA was signed for the CNMI by Governor Fitial and then-AG Ed Buckingham. Of course, this contract was done as a sole-source deal without compliance with procurement regulations. When it became known, the Governor took the position that he had the power under an emergency declaration that suspended procurement regs--a declaration he made for the purported reason that CUC wasn't making quick enough progress on green energy.

The most recent developments saw the new Attorney General, Joey P. San Nicolas, issuing a "legal" opinion  in which he says the Governor did not have authority to enter into the deal because it did not comply with procurement regulations, and specifically that the emergency declaration under which the Governor was "running" CUC only extended to green energy matters and that the PPA, which is for a traditional diesel plant, was insufficient to authorize the governor to have such power. 

The same opinion that discredits the PPA as a valid contract also absolves the governor of all liability for the PPA and instead blames former AG Ed Buckingham. Joey says the governor "relied" on Ed's opinion about the legality of the contract and poor guy, he didn't know that Ed was wrong.

The "opinion" is both brilliant and obscene.  It is brilliant because it forces the governor to admit he exceeded his power in entering into the PPA.  I suspect the governor wanted some way out of the deal so that he could argue against his impeachment based on the PPA.  But even if the governor wanted out of the deal, having to swallow the bit about not having authority must be hard.  Fitial has acted as if he has authority to do anything he wants.

But the decision is also obscene because it employs a lie and scapegoats an unpopular guy who, for all his faults, is not responsible for this deal.  It is simply incredible to say the governor relied on Ed's advice. The implication is that the governor would not have signed the PPA if Ed said it was illegal.  But the governor eliminated CUC's participation in the negotiations as soon as they started raising concerns about the deal; the governor ignored the dozens of issues raised in e-mails by his attorneys as shown during the impeachment hearings last September; and the governor actually negotiated for the PPA before he had even issued any emergency declaration or got any legal advice. There is simply nothing to suggest that he was motivated by Ed.  Furthermore, nothing in his history shows that he would have listened to Ed's advice.  Ed was a tool--the governor told him what he wanted Ed to do, and Ed did it.

And that is what appears to be happening with Joey.  The governor wants out of the PPA for his own political survival, but he will never take responsibility. He will always find a scapegoats. And now he has Joey doing just what Ed did--giving "legal" opinions to justify whatever the governor wants to do.

The wolf in sheep's clothing may not be the best metaphor for Joey, but it is what came to mind. 

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