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Norita's fat-cat corruption

By Troy Torres

(Tumon, Guam) Consultants in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are a dime a dozen. Most of the 30 entities whose transactions with the Saipan casino were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury are consulting service agencies.

But the casino's consulting vendors aren't the only companies, whose business is under scrutiny. So are the companies of former and current elected and appointed CNMI officials that do business with the government itself.

Today Kandit received a copy of a notification from a federal inspector general to a CNMI resident, who filed an official complaint regarding the use of federal funds for a sole-sourced contract to 'employ' Torres administration lackey Claudio "Clyde" Norita.

The United States Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General informed outspoken justice advocate Patricia Guerrero today that her complaint against Mr. Norita and the Torres administration was referred to the U.S. Census Bureau for investigation.

Ms. Guerrero's complaint stems from months of wrangling with Gov. Ralph Torres's administration that forced elected and appointed officials recently to scrap a once-secret illegal sole-source contract with Mr. Norita's consulting firm, TruBlu Resources, to run the Constitutionally-mandated decennial census for the Commonwealth.

The whistleblower began digging around for answers to rumors that the administration was in the process of awarding the contract to Mr. Norita as payback for his obnoxious support of Mr. Torres's 2018 election. Torres stalwarts ignored questions, so she sent and published in the Marianas Variety an Open Government request for documents surrounding the contract with TruBlu.

Then-acting Governor Arnold Palacios on August 5 this year wrote to acting director of procurement and supply Frank Aguon justifying the need to contract Mr. Norita for the census job.

An August 8 routing slip shows Mr. Aguon's approval. Mr. Palacios had approved the Norita contract days before, on July 29, 2019. Mark Rabauliman, secretary of commerce, signed off on the contract two days later on July 31.

A sole-sourced vendor only can be legally used if, following well-placed advertisements for products or services, it is determined that only one vendor exists for the job. Ms. Guerrero and others have not only maintained that no such effort to find other vendors was done, but that nothing even qualified Mr. Norita, who has trouble spelling simple words, much less entire names of people for a census, to take this job.

Thanks to Ms. Guerrero's courageous outing of the scandal, the Saipan media began to cover it and pressed the Torres administration for answers. The answer from officials was that the contract was rescinded, though Mr. Norita showed up to work as a quasi-government employee heading the census operation as a manager under a personnel services contract. The only veil between the $137,577.76 job Mr. Norita got was the pass-through consulting firm itself, TruBlu. The contract he ended up with was not competitively offered either.

Mr. Norita and his employer, CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres, have some explaining to do once the U.S. Census Bureau finds out that the lead person contracted to lead the Constitutionally-mandated decennial census is a defendant in a civil lawsuit that declares Mr. Norita has a hard time following the law.

On March 22 this year, then-Commissioner of Fire and Emergency Services Clyde Norita was sued by Double A Corporation for violating the company's civil rights and keeping a black list of vendors whom he had decided should not receive fire permits to conduct business in the Commonwealth. Double A alleges that Mr. Norita kept that company on its list. When the company applied for a fire permit to complete its qualification to install sprinkler systems for its own vendor contract with another private company, the fire department refused to grant it or give any reason whatsoever for its denial.

The lawsuit states that Mr. Norita even approached the other company to explain that Double A was blacklisted. As a result, Double A lost more than $410,000 from Mr. Norita's reckless and arbitrary disregard for Constitutionally-guaranteed due process rights.

Mr. Norita's political meddling in corporate corruption and his own misuse of influence and political authority to secure private venture contracts with the government didn't just start this year, though. In 2009, Mr. Norita, through his other consulting company Jural Group, tried to get another sole-source contract worth $65,000 through a grant administered by the Department of Public Safety to implement changes to the driver's license system.

These are, sadly, facts.

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