Swanson selects education chief ousted from CNMI, former “owner” of Chinese communist-linked casino to lead GDOE finances

Kenneth Swanson, the new Guam Department of Education chief, chose a new deputy superintendent of finance so laden with scandal that the chairwoman of the board of education asked him in utter disbelief, “Did you run background check on her,” when he made the announcement.

Carmen Fernandez

Carmen Fernandez – the one term Guam senator – who was fired for major impropriety by Northern Marianas College in Saipan before secretly becoming the front woman for the disaster that became Imperial Pacific International CNMI LLC, has been selected by Mr. Swanson to lead GDOE’s handling of hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of employees annually.

“I’m going to drug test her,” was the response Mr. Swanson reportedly gave Mary Okada, the Guam Education Board chairwoman, when she asked whether he ran a background check on Fernandez.

“But did you run a background check,” Ms. Okada pushed back, reportedly. Other board members, also in disbelief about the new superintendent’s selection of finance chief, wondered whether Mr. Swanson at least Google’d Ms. Fernandez’s name to bring up her very public employment history colored with scandal and ties to the Chinese Communist Party and a massive federal corruption investigation.

Kandit asked Mr. Swanson the same question and others by email as the sun was rising Friday. As of the publication of this story, he has not replied.

Ms. Fernandez’s very public employment gaffes began long before her controversy in Saipan. In 2000, she was the vice president of financial affairs for the University of Guam, when the Western Association of Schools and Colleges placed the campus on academic probation. Shortly after she was released from that position, she managed to be elected to the Guam Legislature.

That did not last. Ms. Fernandez was the subject of immediate controversy, after spending tens of thousands in taxpayer money at the start of her term decorating her new office with lavish furniture. Her doctoral degree also was the subject of public scrutiny over the manner in which she received the degree.

She faded from the public after that, then reappeared in 2007, when the Northern Marianas College board of regents selected her to be the school’s president. Her tenure ended abruptly, not three years into the job, when the board fired her following an investigation into her alleged changing of students’ grades.

A different board hired under the political regime of Ralph Torres in 2016 brought Ms. Fernandez back as NMC president, where she began a casino industry program. She left the college under suspicious circumstances again, but allegedly failed to disclose her relationship with the very casino company her program was feeding students into.

On April 25, 2019, a notice of federal tax lien was filed in the U.S. District Court of the CNMI against Imperial Pacific International CNMI, the company that ran the mammoth casino in Garapan, which has since folded to become a dangerous eye soar in the tourist district. Ms. Fernandez is listed as the sole member, or owner, of the company in the notice.

The lien’s case – MC 19-00019 – was only unsealed in federal court following the November federal raids of some of IPI’s offices, the home and office of then-governor Ralph Torres, and the law offices of his brothers.

Also unsealed following the raids by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the search warrant, which indicated probable cause that several people had committed wire fraud, laundered money, engaged in a corrupt conspiracy, and even participated in the foreign interference of a United States election.

Records from the Federal Election Commission, including a conciliation agreement, show that in 2017 Ralph Torres and Angel Demapan – a current member of the CNMI House of Representatives – received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from foreign agents via the casino owner, IPI.

According to the federal tax lien, Ms. Fernandez was its owner at the time. 

A Bloomberg investigative report published shortly before the federal raids showcased IPI’s direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party.


  • Rolly Mondo

      09/29/2023 at 8:04 PM

    WTH, Do a background check on Swanson, then drug test him. He probably puffing the magic dragon🤨

  • I like to see people given a second chance especially with Ms. Fernandez credentials, but I guess she wasted that opportunity since she screwed up so many times. What a waste of talent if deserving. Otherwise, investigate those organizations that awarded her such accolade. I wonder how many out there that bought there credentials. Just saying.

  • Russ Mason

      10/02/2023 at 4:12 PM

    Looks like Ms. Fernandez has not only dodged a few bullets, but has wormed her way into positions of responsibility throught cunning and unabashed nerve. She reminds me of Jack Abramoff, who could sweet-talk the peanuts out of your M&Ms.

    As well, Mr. Swanson appears to have all of the necessary credentials except integrity. But that’s the NMI for you, where
    slipshod business practices occur as a matter of course.

    Saipan could be a bustling center for tourism and fun, but when politicians get greedy they spoil the soup. And just when we thought the low standard of politics couldn’t get any lower, Ralph Torres proved us wrong by his many (alleged) criminal acts and wanton disregard for integrity and the law.

    We deserve better, but as the Italians say, “Eh, whaddya gonna do?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *