The House of Representatives has voted to impeach Mr Fitial on charges of corruption, felony and neglect of duty.
Mr Fitial will now face trial in the territory's Senate.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Joseph Deleon Guerrero, Speaker, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives
GUERRERO: It wasn't any one thing, it was a number of things. At first it was minor things like not appointing certain members to boards and commissions. Those boards had functions that they could not perform because they lacked a quorum to conduct their mandate. And so it's little things like that, not appointing department heads, permanent department heads, and submitting those nominees to the Senate for confirmation. But then it went on to more serious things like sole sourced contracts, some of which clearly violated CNMI procurement laws and ethical laws. And then it went on to more serious sole sourced contracts for diesel power plants that the CNMI did not need, and he did it without following procurement laws and regulations. So it kept escalating and it appeared to be more of a pattern now, rather than isolated incidents.
COUTTS: Well the 18 charges of corruption felony and neglect of duty, have the police actually charged Mr Fitial with those 18 charges? And could there be more than 18 to come?
GUERRERO: The police have not charged. Normally prosecution of these types of allegations would be initiated by the Attorney General's office. In this case even the former Attorney General was a subject of our impeachment. He's appointed by the Governor, so no, no charges were ever filed.
COUTTS: Alright can we just get to the detail of the impeachment now, was the whole legislature in favour of this impeachment of Mr Fitial?
GUERRERO: There's two houses of the legislature. When this thing first started in the 17th legislature no, the whole house was not supported. The group that initiated the proceeding was, I mean initiated introduction of the resolution was a minority, so we did not have the support of the full house. However the election has since occurred, this is a new legislature now with new members being voted in, and this new legislature does have a majority of the members that supports it.
COUTTS: And what about Mr Fitial's followers? They resigned en masse and walked away from Mr Fitial, although in the end it was a small group?
GUERRERO: Mr Fitial's followers in the house have opposed the impeachment and have voted against the impeachment, but did not have the numbers to prevent the impeachment.
COUTTS: Well what happens now with Mr Fitial?
GUERRERO: Nothing right now. This is a two-part process. The House of Representatives have voted to impeach the Governor. All that means is that it goes to the next level now and that is to this House of Senate, the impeachment trial begins. If convicted at the Senate by two-thirds votes by the senators, which means six out of nine need to vote in the affirmative, then the Governor will have been convicted and will be removed from office.
COUTTS: It's a curious thing because there was a lot of talk prior to the elections of impeaching Mr Fitial, the Governor, and then you told us that you would wait to see if Mr Fitial ran again, and if he ran again then the impeachment would be implemented. Two parts to that, why did Mr Fitial knowing that this was pending run again, and why was it that you and your supporters decided to let him run again to see what happened, to see what panned out, rather than pursuing the impeachment process?
GUERRERO: I think there's some misunderstanding. Mr Fitial was halfway through his five year term. He did not run. This was a mid-term election where only members of the legislature ran, not Mr Fitial.
COUTTS: Well still the second part of the question, why did the process wait until now to go through with the impeachment process? Why was there that long waiting period?
GUERRERO: The election happened in November. Members that won that election were not inaugurated until January 14th. We introduced the resolution to impeach on the very day, on inauguration day. So there was no waiting.