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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Administrative Reorganizations Underway In CNMI
2 Fitial cabinet members already on their way out

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 26, 2013) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Governor Eloy S. Inos asked for and received the courtesy resignations of senior policy adviser Dr. John Joyner and former governor Benigno R. Fitial's executive secretary Lucy Cabrera, the first batch of organizational changes that the week-old administration has initiated as it also deals with possible federal funding cuts, fiscal year 2014 budget submission, turning the economy around, and improving its healthcare and pension programs, among other things.

Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider said the resignation letters were accepted.

He said the new administration has not asked for "mass courtesy resignations."

Press secretary Angel Demapan said there is no telling yet as to Joyner and Cabrera's replacements, as well as the other Cabinet members who will be asked for their courtesy resignations.

The Inos-Hofschneider administration is doing a performance review of the Cabinet, in the wake of Fitial's resignation. As with any administration and in any jurisdiction, the chief executive gets to select his own Cabinet.

Demapan said the Inos administration for the most part will continue initiatives already in place, especially the tourism task force to further improve the destination and beef up arrivals to the CNMI.

"The governor in his previous role was very much involved in a lot of the initiatives that we were doing already so pretty much he has not unveiled yet any new initiatives that we would be looking at. Right now we're just continuing the work that the administration has been doing. At the forefront of that is the tourism task force and working with the Legislature and other elected leaders to address the economic challenges that we're facing," Demapan said in an interview on Capital Hill.

Senate vacancy, CUC declaration

Senate President Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) also formally asked the governor yesterday to fill the vacancy in the Senate, days after Hofschneider, a former Senate president from Tinian, was sworn into his new post.

"Your immediate attention to this matter is appreciated," Torres told Inos in a one-page letter, following the Senate's declaration that a vacancy exists.

Inos said he will be appointing a person within 30 days from Feb. 20. He said the Office of the Attorney General is reviewing the matter.

Former Tinian senatorial candidate Joaquin Borja was the second highest vote getter in the last two elections.

The governor also extended for another 30 days the emergency declaration for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. (CUC) on Feb. 20, but the administration released a copy of the executive order only yesterday because of the turn of events last week.

The press secretary said the administration has not yet extended the emergency declaration for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. as of yesterday.

Buckingham extradition

House Vice Speaker Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) pre-filed for today's action a joint resolution asking Inos and Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas to extradite former AG and now fugitive from justice Edward Buckingham to answer the criminal charges filed against him.

"Freedom and democracy depend upon a government of laws [that] are agreed upon by the people and enforced with the highest degree of integrity providing no allowances for prejudice or favoritism," Dela Cruz's joint resolution partly reads.

Fitial, before resigning, did not decide on the recommendation of Office of the Public Auditor legal counsel George Hasselback for Buckingham's extradition.

Inos and Hofschneider held separate meetings with a host of officials yesterday. Hasselback and Public Auditor Michael Pai were among the visitors to Inos' office.

Tinian concerns

Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz and his chief of staff and CNMI historian Don Farrell also got to meet with Hofschneider in his new office yesterday afternoon.

Dela Cruz reactivated his concern about the Commonwealth Ports Authority's board of directors "to see if we can have direct flight from Asia, specifically from China, to Tinian."

"CPA has been inactive for a while; they have never been responsive to my request," the Tinian mayor said.

He also asked the Inos-Hofschneider administration for the designation of certain public lands on Tinian to the municipality so that the municipality "can work in enhancing those facilities."

"A lot of them are crumbling already, they're falling down. They're safety hazards. We need that to enhance the Tachogna area and Taga Beach area," he said in an interview on Capital Hill yesterday.

He also asked whether Tinian could fill long-time vacancies since during the Fitial administration. He, however, said he respects Inos' Feb. 22 memo halting agencies and departments from hiring and raising salaries "until further notice."

"I agree with freezing [hiring]. That's the governor's prerogative right? But on Tinian, it's separate issues. Very different. These are positions that have been vacated [because of] resignation and termination and we have to fill those things. With the budget cuts affecting the operations of the Executive Branch on Tinian, the mayor's office was left with no other alternative but to transfer employees from mayor's staff to various departments to carry out the daily operations." he added.

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