CNMI Lawmaker Calls On Governor To Fire Commonwealth Utilities Corp Board

Representative Propst: Ethical standards violated over new power generator deal

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 13, 2017) – Representative Edwin Propst has asked Gov. Ralph D.L.G, Torres to fire the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board members except for David Sablan Jr. for not adhering to ethical standards in performing their duties when they recommended the approval of the controversial $11 million power generator deal with General Pacific Services Marianas Inc. or GPSM.

In an interview on Wednesday, Propst said there is evidence of conflicts of interest in the board’s conduct.

“The evidence is all there, and the governor cannot turn away from that evidence,” Propst said a day after the Senate and the House met with CUC officials to discuss the GPSM deal.

Lawmakers on Tuesday told CUC officials not to proceed with the purchase agreement. CUC officials said they will “return to the drawing board.”

Propst commended both the House and the Senate for doing what is expected of them.

“I’m extremely grateful to Sen. Sixto Igisomar for the oversight his utilities committee conducted. It was done in a very professional manner and was transparent. The senators there had great comments and held CUC board members accountable for their actions. I’m proud of the senators and thanked them for what they talked about and the questions they asked. The same with the House. I am so proud of utilities chairman Frank Dela Cruz and my colleagues for trying to get to the bottom of this,” Propst said.

Asked for comment, the governor’s office issued the following statement on Wednesday evening:

“In the formation of Public Law 19-75 last December, which appropriated funds to help pay for CHCC’s utility bills and help families save on their utility costs, the governor advocated that the funding be used to purchase a new generator to replace Engine #8. That remains the governor’s priority and he has advocated that the CUC board make a direct purchase of the generator, using the already appropriated funds, in a manner that is transparent and in line with their fiduciary duty to the corporation, and more importantly to the community.

“It has become clear that the process was not conducted in a manner that was originally intended to address long-term energy capacity issues in a legally responsible and ethical fashion.

“While CUC has publicly agreed to revisit the process, the governor will be closely monitoring the ongoing discussions of the board and expects them to take action that will have the best interests of the ratepayers in mind and that offers transparency to the people. Anything short of that expectation is unacceptable.”

Fraud

When asked if he believes CUC board chairwoman Adelina Roberto — who notarized GPSM’s articles of incorporation — did not know that her stepson was one of the owners of the company, Propst said: “Absolutely not. I do not believe that for one second. But if she’s telling us that [her stepson] Philip Roberto’s name was not there and suddenly it was there, then GPSM committed fraud and they need to be investigated. The normal procedure when you notarize something is to look for the people involved, check their driver’s licenses or ID’s and write it all down. So what she’s saying is that the only persons there were [GPSM officers] Kimberly Smith and Amelia Toelkes? Philip Roberto did not exist then? So that means they added Philip Roberto later which is fraud and, right there, we need to contact the Office of the Public Auditor. I urge CUC Chairwoman Roberto to go to OPA and file a complaint because GPSM committed fraud if they failed to disclose that particular fact or information.”

Propst believes the meeting and oversight hearing with CUC board officials and management on Tuesday did not end the issue.

“I believe it’s a great start, but we’re far from through. We’ve only scratched the surface right now; there’s so much more to this than meets the eye. We’re getting more reports of collusion, fraud and other things. We need the FBI to intervene at this point because that’s the only solution,” he said.

Regarding the involvement of Guam Sen. James V. Espaldon, Propst said: “I am deeply disturbed about that. He was here on Tuesday in the House and Senate chambers, and he was representing GPSM. My concern is that Philip Roberto is his staff member and Philip Roberto is the chairwoman’s stepson and he is also a former employee of Robert Toelkes in his bankrupt company, International Bridge Corp. So there are conflicts of interest all over. We heard it Tuesday at the meeting that [CUC board member] Albert Taitano is not only an agent but his son is also working at GPSM. So how is that even allowed? Why was it not even disclosed? [Taitano] claimed he didn’t vote on [approving the deal with GPSM], but he was still in on the negotiations from beginning to end, and that in itself is illegal.”

Propst said he may draft a resolution to declare Robert Toelkes “persona non grata” in the CNMI.

“My biggest concern is there will be more scams, another scam forthcoming like the reverse-osmosis system [which Robert Toelkes earlier proposed to CUC]. What is the next thing going to be falling on us? We have to be careful and protect ourselves from these wolves trying to become instant millionaires at the expense of the ratepayers. The conflicts cannot be ignored and what we have to look at at this point is the collusion, fraud and racketeering among other things. So we’re not done yet. We are closely monitoring these developments.”

Marianas Variety
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Comments

A troupe of Corrupt Monkeys.... As pathetic and illegal a display as I have ever heard of or witnessed.. These reprobates simply see this as a bump in the road. An obstacle to get around so illicit cash can get into their pockets... China can be commended for very few things. One of them is taking the corrupt out and putting a bullet in the back of their heads. The CNMI would be an infinately better place if our judges could take such action

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