Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On The Misreporting of HB 15-269

[This is a letter I just sent to the Variety and other media on the Open Government Act issue. I hope to put this matter to rest once and for all.]

Setting The Record Straight on HB 15-269

Enough is enough! I wish to correct a grievous error continuously made by Marianas Variety reporter Gemma Casas concerning HB 15-269. In this latest erroneous reporting, she writes the following in the July 25, 2007, edition of the Variety article titled "Ogo, Mendiola say no to Open Government Act pledge" -- 'Kaipat's bill includes a provision giving each lawmaker the discretion of disclosing or releasing information [on] how they spend their public funds.' " This is simply wrong. If passed, HB 15-269 would give no such discretion to the lawmakers, but would actually MANDATE disclosure of their financial records.

Ms. Casas continues: "In [Mr. Eugenio Sablan's] opinion, the last sentence of this proposed change, when it became part of this bill, just eroded its integrity." Most people probably already know this, but once a bill is entertained on the floor, each lawmaker has the prerogative to amend such a bill whether the original bill author likes it or not. The amendment to HB 15-269, which was to mandate that each individual lawmaker disclose his or her respective office's financial records -- rather than the Speaker of the House or the Senate President -- was an amendment made by Representative Ray Yumul. This was never a part of my original bill. Moreover, Mr. Eugenio Sablan and I met and discussed this issue and he informed me that he is now fully aware of the truth behind the amendment to HB 15-269. Hence, to continue to report this story as if there's an ongoing controversy between us is misleading and is a disservice to the public.

As I've shared with Mr. Sablan, the Senate's introduction of a version of the Open Government Act bill that meets with his Group's approval makes any continuous fret over HB 15-269 pointless as this bill will most likely go the same route as every other bill I've authored that has passed the House and languished in the Senate for well over a year -- nowhere!

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Click here for the Marianas Variety article.


gemma casas said...

H.B. 15-269 reads: “Requests for financial records under this section shall be made directly to the member of the Legislature…. Financial records of a member shall not be released by any person other than that member.”
The Senate version, S.B. 15-96, doesn’t have this clause, which means the public can access their lawmakers’ financial records through the Department of Finance and not from each individual lawmaker’s discretion.
H.B. 15-26 makes a travesty of transparency in government.

Gemma Casas

Angelo Villagomez said...

Gemma, as a reporter you shouldn't be injecting your personal opinions into your stories.

Your comment only proves that the Variety has an agenda.

FoM said...

are you guys on crack? the issue isn't who is asked to disclose the information the issue is that cinta's bill covers only a very brief portion of what the OGA covers. she limits it only to the financial disclosures of the legislature. that is the point i have been making time and time again. please people, read the OGA and see that there is so much more to it. the senate version submitted by manglona is night and day different than the diluted version offered up by cinta. she does not want to touch on this and shuns my attempts to confront her on the issue but anyone that looks at the two bill will see that it is perfectly clear.

cinta's bill states that the legislator needs to disclose his financial records when asked. manglona's bill applies the entire OGA to the legislature; public notice before sessions, justification for emergency sessions, documentation during all sessions, public notice before sessions, etc… please go here to read it : OGA

cinta, you’re your bill focuses solely on the financial aspect of the OGA and leaves out the numerous other issues the OGA covers. Stop side stepping the issue and fess up to that fact. The only dead horse is your bill.

Jeff said...

First off, Gemma is allowed to have her own thoughts. Was this just in her post here: "H.B. 15-26 makes a travesty of transparency in government" or in the story.

Secondly, everyone has some kind of agenda. Some just happen to have better agendas than others. The whole objective journalism thing has always been a myth. In about two seconds, a journalist could find someone to say "H.B. 15-26 makes a travesty of transparency in government," or the opposite.

By mere act of highlighting or lowlighting certain issues and events, the media expresses an agenda. historically the agenda has been of conflict. Two people screaming at each other.

Angelo Villagomez said...

Glen, why do you hate the CNMI?

Jeff, what is your problem with freedom?

Jeff said...

I love freedom. It is your support for child molesters, terrorists and Brad I find disturbing

Angelo Villagomez said...

If you are referring to Brad's recent NAMBLA endorsement, I voted for it before I voted against it.

Jeff said...

I would have voted against it, but I was too busy inventing the interenet.

FoM said...

so much for my high praise for SB 15-96. it was just amended and and passed by the senate today.

"what amendment?" you may ask. i have yet to see it with my own eyes but from what i have heard it has limited the OGA to "financial records" only.

disheartening to say the least.

FoM said...

so much for my high praise for SB 15-96. it was just amended and and passed by the senate today.

"what amendment?" you may ask. i have yet to see it with my own eyes but from what i have heard it has limited the OGA to "financial records" only.

disheartening to say the least.

CNMI Blogger said...

Let me try this one more time...

“Requests for financial records under this section shall be made directly to the member of the Legislature…. Financial records of a member shall not be released by any person other than that member.”

I repeat, this language was not part of my original bill that I introduced on the floor. The above language that you cited was the floor amendment that came from Ray Yumul.

Let me explain again.

Once a bill is introduced, it is each lawmaker's prerogative to amend the bill if he/she wanted to -- regardless of whether the original author of the bill approved of the amendment or not.

Another point of clarification -- when I originally introduced HB 15-269, Rep. Joe Guerrero requested that ALL lawmakers co-sponsor the bill. I had no objection to this, so the entire House co-sponsored the bill prior to Yumul's floor amendments. Consequently, by the time the House voted unanimously for passage of HB 15-269, the entire House owned the bill, not just me. So technically speaking -- HB 15-269 is a House bill.

Now, a piece of information that may help you understand the critical points I'm making in getting you to understand the larger picture and why your interpretation of the bill is wrong is this: The key word in the above-quoted language that I'd like to focus your attention on is "shall."

Unlike "will" or "may," "shall" is mandatory -- not discretionery. Therefore, the word "shall" in the language of the bill that you quoted is MANDATORY.

Therefore, HB 15-269 made the disclosure of each member's financial records mandatory -- not discretionery, as you have mistakenly reported over and over again.

As to the second sentence you quoted which reads: "Financial records of a member shall not be released by any person other than that member”, as I stated before, this was part of the Yumul floor amendment which he justified in the Executive Session as wanting to have each lawmaker be responsible for the mandatory release of his/her respective office's financial records, but not the House Speaker nor the Senate President.

Mind you, the bill does not specifically name the House Speaker or the Senate President when it stated "Financial records of a member shall not be released by any person other than that member.” But, as I explained above, since this proposed law was meant to apply the Open Government Act to the Legislature, the fact that the House Speaker and Senate President were not named specifically did not seem to be a problem.

Another point of clarification -- because HB 15-269 was intended for the LEGISLATURE, the language that says "any person other than that member" was referring to the Legislature -- not the Executive Branch. Therefore, even if this bill were signed into law, this would not have restricted the Department of Finance from releasing such financial information upon invocation of the Open Government Act request as has been mistakenly asserted.

As you know, Gemma, the print media has done just that in the past, despite the present exemption of the Legislature from the Open Government Act.

As I stated in a previous post on this subject, I was one of the first lawmakers to voluntarily reply to Tina Sablan and her Group's request for disclosure of our respective office's financial expenditures for 2006 and 2007.

As I also reported here, I went a step further than any other lawmaker and posted this information on this blog and invited the world's eyes to review what I posted.

In addition to this, I invited my constituents to make an appointment with my office for a face-to-face meeting if they deemed it necessary.

Look Gemma, let's not kid each other. Ever since I introduced HB 15-38, the Labor Reform Bill, you folks at the Variety have been highly critical of the bill and any story you attach my name to. You may deny this all you want, but I feel that this has also tainted your impartial reporting of HB 15-269.

Your personal bias is transparent, but I would appreciate your not slanting your reporting to make it appear as though I have anything to hide. Contrary to what others may say, I do not have a hidden agenda.

And, just to set the record straight, my constituents gave me the privilege of serving them in office during the 15th Commonwealth Legislature. I have done my best to do just that. And though it may surprise you folks, I am fully prepared to accept whatever the voters decide in the upcoming elections. This is my agenda.

FoM said...

i am loving the way the focus of my concerns are completely lost in this whole discussion.

why cant anyone understand that the issue is not that the financial disclosures are covered in your bill but that no other concerns addressed by the OGA are applied in your bill (or the senates now for that matter)

again, i ask humbly, please read and understand the OGA. you will see why i am beyond frustrated at this point.

i can not believe sen. reyes molested the senate bill presented by manglona and turned it into a reiteration of your house bill.

i may seem to be coming off harshly and this is because i intend to. as long as the people of the cnmi swallow this garbage we will suffer the consequences. i really hoped the senators and the representatives that signed the pledge that mr. sablan passed around would keep their word and move towards FULLY applying the OGA to the legislature as the promised. once again our representatives have lied to us.

why do we put up with this? i hope the public sees what has happened and i hope that the papers report it fully. the public needs to know that our public servants have lied to us. they stated one thing to a member of our community and did just the opposite when the bill was brought to the floor.

manglona's bill in it's drafted and original form was spot on what 2500+ citizens asked for. it was not tina sablan alone that asked for it or her father it was the community as a whole as well as all but three of the legislators. and the legislators (albiet but three) swore they would move forward with applying the OGA FULLY to the legislature. our legislators have lied and have let our people down.

cinta, you, yourself stated that your were passionately in favor of the OGA and told the voters if you were elected that you would embrace it.

i quote you here explicitly (prior to being elected):

"We have the legal grounds to do so through the Open Government Act. We need to use this important law to monitor our government's actions, and we need to come down hard on those who fail to live up to their responsibilities and betray the public trust by abusing their position for personal gain."

was this a false promise? if not then take manglona's original bill in it's original form and introduce and pass it in the house? enough with the smoke and mirrors.

what the hell are you guys afraid of? what documents are you afraid will be released to the public? are you afraid that you will have to inform the public that you will have a session and what the session will revolve around? are you afraid you will have to document what takes place behind closed doors in executive sessions? are you afraid that your contracts that are attached to your disclosures will be subject to public scrutiny? are you afraid that you will have to hold public hearings prior to presenting bills?

please explain to me as "citizen joe" why you side-skirt the issue and you all continue to treat the public as if they were a bunch of imbusils. we are not as dumb as you would hope us to be. and we will all not be silent. i hope the public's voice is heard in the voting booths. no longer should we swallow the crap we are being force fed.

if anyone cares to contact me please do.

to the legislators that may read this: quit your crap and apply the OGA FULLY to yourselves. you were the ones that amended the law to exclude yourselves without any just cause.

if you feel there is just cause that hasn't been shot down, let me know. i am a reasonable person i just am very very fed up with this crap.

Angelo Villagomez said...


I loved that you misspelled "imbeciles" as "imbusils."

I also loved that you followed that with, "we are not as dumb as you would hope us to be."

You are quite the comedian!

...and don't you live in Guam? You should be more honest with the 5 or 6 people that read this blog.

CNMI Blogger said...


You're the only one who insists on confusing yourself on this issue. I already met with Mr. Eugenio Sablan who was courteous enough to sit down with me to discuss and come to an understanding on this issue without resorting to personal attacks.

Perhaps it is difficult for you to understand what I am trying to explain because you are so full of animosity. I suggest you calm down and read all my postings on this issue because you keep repeating the same questions I've already answered already.

If you're all that concerned about this issue as you would have everyone believe, then you would have moved mountains to sit in the Senate Chambers yesterday with your girlfriend Tina Sablan and her father. The Senate members had a lengthy debate on this topic with Mr. Sablan.

You stated, "i can not believe sen. reyes molested the senate bill presented by manglona and turned it into a reiteration of your house bill."

Despite your insinuations that I have something to hide, HB 15-269 (my bill, as you call it) was drafted as a result of advice from the House legal counsel. Senate Bill 15-26 was also amended as a direct result of advice from the SENATE legal counsel, who arrived at the same legal conclusion as the House legal counsel.

Yesterday, I even heard Mr. Sablan admit to the Senators that he thought HB 15-269 was "a good start" until the Yumul floor amendments were added. Too bad you weren't there to hear the exchanges yourself.

Absent that, I would advise you to invoke the Open Government Act and request a copy of the Senate journal of yesterday's session from the Legislative Bureau and educate yourself better on this issue. Perhaps then, the "reasonable person" you claim to be will emerge and you can put to rest the personal vendettas disguised as a "citizen joe" concern.

One more thing -- I would never underestimate the aptitude of the voting public. I suggest you do the same and DON'T use them as a pawn in your personal vendetta.

Brad Ruszala said...

i think glen should change from "g" to "G-Money"

Angelo Villagomez said...

G-money is so over done.

How about G-Lite?

Brad Ruszala said...

how about G-Dawg or G-Dizzay