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Gov. Fitial asks for resignations, takes control

By Agnes E. Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 3, 2008) - The board of the Commonwealth Ports Authority has resigned en masse amid financial problems that nearly caused the agency to default on its US$20 million airport revenue bond.

Governor Benigno R. Fitial asked the appointees to resign after he suspended the board and took over the ports authority.

Press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said yesterday that all of the members had resigned, with the last one being chairman Rex I. Palacios.

"The next step will be to come up with the list of new appointees, and submit it to the Senate for confirmation. We need to get that done, so CPA can be returned to autonomous status as soon as possible," said Reyes.

When the Legislature rejected the governor’s takeover of CPA last week, it also called on Fitial to replace all of the members of the board. It appears the governor had done this before the Legislature called for it.

Lee Cabrera, the acting executive director at CPA, said the governor asked for the board’s resignation on May 23, 2008.

The board members who have resigned are Palacios, Antonio Camacho, Connie Igisomar, Joe Lifoifoi, Alejo Mendiola, and Ray Cing. Another former member, Marian Tudela, had quit previously to accept an appointment to the NMI Retirement Fund’s board of trustees.

On May 12, 2008, the governor issued an executive order placing CPA under his direct control for 120 days. He also signed a separate order declaring CPA under a state of emergency.

The Legislature has overturned the reorganization order, but emergency declaration will keep the ports authority under the Governor’s Office at least until June 11, 2008.

The ports authority was on the verge of technical default on its airport revenue bond when the governor took over. CPA’s bond consultants had recommended measures to prevent the default, but the board of directors failed to implement them.

The Legislature has said the governor could have solved the problem by simply appointing new members to the board. But Fitial argued this approach would have delayed action, as the process of nominating and confirming appointees take time.

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