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Electronics, guns unaccounted at Governor's Office

By Jacob Nakamura

Mathilda Rosario, the CNMI governor's special assistant for administration, told a House panel she does not know where guns, rifles, gun cases, coolers, headsets, boomboxes, wireless Bose speakers, Nikon cameras, SIM cards, portable chargers, and stove top burners supposedly belonging to her office are located.

The items in question were purchased by her boss, Gov. Ralph Torres, while on several off island trips. The Commonwealth's tax payers reimbursed the governor thousands of dollars for these items.

The House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee, which is investigating the governor for corruption, is trying to ascertain what government purpose these purchased items have, and whether they are even in the possession of the Commonwealth government.

On August 21, 2020, Ms. Rosario provided the previous legislature with an inventory of items located at the Governor's Office that were the subject of controversy following the public leaking of receipts and reimbursement memos indicating the governor purchased these items then was paid back by the government. She updated the inventory on August 25, 2020.

"Aside from the stovetop burners, rifles, and cases, were there any other items requested by the special committee that were not in the inventory when you conducted the search?" Congressman Vicente Camacho (D-Saipan) asked Ms. Rosario through a Chamorro translator.

Replying in Chamorro, Ms. Rosario stated, "Everything is there except the Jabra headsets, boomboxes, wireless Bose speakers, Nikon cameras, SIM cards, and portable chargers."

"To be clear," Congresswoman Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) followed up, "were these items in the Governor's Office?"

"I don't know," Ms. Rosario stated in Chamorro.

"Did you look for these items?" Ms. Sablan continued, pointing out that in testimony minutes prior, Ms. Rosario agreed she compiled the inventory list "after a diligent search of the Governor's Office." She replied to the congresswoman, simply, "No."

When pressed why she didn't look for the items herself, Ms. Rosario replied in Chamorro, "Because I trust the employees to include it." She added, "I am not sure, not clear, if these things are there at the Governor's Office."

Conflicting stories

Initially when asked about the location of coolers the governor purchased on an off island trip, Ms. Rosario said she located those coolers in the kitchen at the Governor's Office. She described, among others, two coolers, "white Igloo, 65 quarts."

Later during the questioning, Ms. Sablan presented Exhibit 20, which contains the WalMart receipt from Boise showing the governor had purchased two 70-quart coolers on January 1, 2019.

That was when she backtracked her earlier story.

"I don't know if these two 70-quart coolers on the receipt if it's part of the inventory lists," Ms. Rosario replied in Chamorro.

Her testimony before the House continues at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

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