Impeachment charges have been filed against the governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Gov. Ralph Torres was charged Friday morning for “commission of felonies, corruption, and neglect of duty,” according to a House resolution.
Torres has been under investigation for misspending public funds since 2019, accused of spending inordinate amounts on travel, entertainment and using government personnel while on vacation, among other things.
The investigating Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee filed impeachment charges following months of hearings with subpoenaed witnesses with close working or personal relationships with the governor.
The governor was also subpoenaed and asked if he would instead testify under oath. But he refused and was found in contempt.
Torres instead filed a lawsuit against the committee, having previously called the investigation a politically motivated witch hunt by the House minority Democrats. Torres published a series of videos in response to the committee’s accusations on his public Facebook page.
Committee members claimed the process was frustrated by Torres through what they believed to be influencing of witnesses, but committee chairwoman Celina Babauta said witnesses corroborated enough “irrefutable” evidence to necessitate impeachment charges.
“They had nothing to hide,” Babauta said in an email. “The sheer volume of the evidence provided by the Department of Finance, DPS, and the Administration is undisputable. The numbers don’t lie.”
The impeachment resolution will be formally introduced to the House on Monday, when the speaker can either create an impeachment committee or make a motion for a vote, though a timeframe was yet to be determined.
And what comes next is largely out of the committee’s hands, contingent upon what will happen in the House.
“That remains to be seen, honestly, but we are hopeful and prayerful that it will succeed in the House,” Babauta told Civil Beat.
Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios was subpoenaed during the hearing process, which informed his decision to run against his former running mate, Torres, in the upcoming 2022 gubernatorial elections.
“These are very serious allegations of misuse of taxpayers’ money that only the governor himself must put to rest. The public deserves an explanation, nothing less. They have the right to know the truth because, after all, it is their money,” Palacios said in a statement on Friday.
To read the full impeachment charges and House resolution, read below: