SAIPAN – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands House Committee on Judicial and Government Operations on Wednesday asked CNMI’s Public Safety Department Deputy Chief of Police for Boating Safety Kelvin Aldan questions regarding the 85 CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres’ boat trips using the Department of Public Safety boats, some of which were funded by federal grants.
Aldan, who has worked for DPS for 30 years and boating safety since 2015, was shown documents the committee received in connection with a recent subpoena. Aldan had signed most of the documents, including the ship usage reports.
He stated that the 40-foot Impact, 30-foot Zodiac III, 21-foot Zodiac I, a 21-foot jet boat, two jet skis and two 26-foot Tornado boats made up the DPS Boating fleet. Safety.
If Governor or First Lady Diann Torres wanted to use a DPS boat for recreational activities, Aldan told lawmakers he would get an order from CNMI DPS commissioner Robert Guerrero.
Documents in the committee’s possession, according to its members, indicate that the governor has received reimbursements for fuel and other costs associated with using the DPS boats for boat trips, including fishing and fishing expeditions. other leisure activities on the high seas.
Aldan told the committee that he knew that DPS boating safety officers and vessels were used to take the governor on a fishing trip to all of the Mariana Islands, but, he added, “we don’t. followed that shadow “.
Aldan said he did not recall the number of boat trips DPS boating safety personnel took to “follow” the governor.
He recalled a boat trip where he and other Boating Safety personnel escorted the governor to Tinian. There were also trips to Managaha with the governor and the first lady using DPS ships, Aldan said, but he couldn’t remember how many times.
House JGO committee vice chair Blas Jonathan Attao told Aldan that vessel usage reports and logbooks showed 85 boat trips with the Governor and his family from March 2017 to July 2021 in aid from DPS search and rescue vessels, several boating safety personnel, thousands of gallons of fuel and other government nautical resources.
When asked if the records were correct, Aldan replied, “If it’s in the documents, yes, sir.”
The committee also presented emails between DPS Boating Safety Program Director Vanessa Deleon Guerrero and Gary Jensen of the US Coast Guard.
In an email, Deleon Guerrero asked Jensen if there were any restrictions on the use of water safety vessels to transport the Governor, his family and his guests from one island to another.
She also told the Coast Guard official that “the fuel that will be used in these activities is paid for by the local government CNMI”.
She said the governor joined the expedition with the Marianas Visitors Authority to promote the Northern Islands.
In his response, Jensen told Deleon Guerrero that “generally speaking, the protection of public officials would not fall within the realm of RBS (boating safety) and would not be an eligible cost. However, in your specific example, a tourism developer comes in and starts touting boating as an incentive to visit your beautiful islands. While boating safety is in the spotlight, your office just happens to provide protection to the Governor at the same time. When even you have two or more missions running simultaneously, a decision must be made regarding how that time is allocated. Time allocation records should be verified by supervisors. If an agent records the time as RBS time and the supervisor approves it, then they will be billed to RBS Grant. This procedure is acceptable and will stand up to scrutiny by the audit. “
Propst asked Aldan if governor’s protection was included in the activities permitted by the RBS grant.
Aldan responded that Jensen’s response to Deleon Guerrero seems to suggest this is permissible, since the governor’s protection was happening at the same time as the promotional trip.
Propst said the promotional trip to the Northern Islands did not appear to include water safety education, which could be an activity permitted in the RBS grant.
House JGO chair Celina R. Babauta showed Aldan a fuel statement stating that DPS owed Shell Marianas $ 93,081 in fuel for the boats.
Babauta concluded the hearing by saying that these “luxury boat trips” by the governor and his family took place while the people at CNMI were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also presented a copy of the governor’s request for fuel reimbursement.
She said documents also showed the governor received a refund of $ 919 for “DPS boat fuel.”
She asked Aldan, “Do you think it is reasonable for the DPS to use taxpayer money to follow the governor on boat trips to fish or to go to Managaha? “
Aldan replied: “I don’t want to form an opinion on this – it’s beyond my level.”
When asked if there had been a time when the Governor paid fuel for the DPS ships out of his own pocket, Aldan replied, “None that I remember.”
She said there would be no hearing next week as the committee has yet to review “thousands of pages of documents that have yet to be reviewed.”
Wednesday’s hearing adjourned at 4:14 p.m.