CNMI GOVERNOR MUST HIRE HIS OWN LAWYER

Editorial

Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (Jan. 22, 2010) - ALL the facts aren’t out yet so it is too early to know what the federal violations are in the matter of the governor and his masseuse in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Meanwhile, speculation is rife, the coverage is global, and the partial disclosures from the administration aren’t helping much under these circumstances.

The public has been told, moreover, that the CNMI attorney general will appear in court on behalf of government officials who have abused their power. Are we supposed to believe that the service of the masseuse was required for the common good? Clearly, the governor needed the federal detainee’s expertise for a personal purpose. Hence, his legal representation should not be borne by CNMI taxpayers. The same goes for the designated "fall guy," the hapless commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the other Corrections officers involved in this controversy.

The people, in any case, know that their top official enjoys various perks, including free housekeeping and security services, topnotch healthcare as well as the authority to give tax breaks and direct the release of public funds, including tax refunds. He can issue direct orders, which are now apparently called "requests," to the Commonwealth Health Center (CHC), Department of Public Safety (DPS), Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC), Corrections among other various agencies. He can steer contracts to favored bidders. He can hire or fire employees. If you’re "close" to the governor, you also get special treatment.

However, government officials are not supposed to use government resources for personal or political purposes. Government officials are supposed to be held to a higher standard of conduct. But now the public assumes that these kinds of infractions happen every day and are, indeed, par for the course.

The people, however, deserve better from their officials. The question is, do the people want a better government?

WHILE we’re on the subject of "therapists," the Department of Public Health’s budget now stands at US$27 million, bloated with administrative assistants, secretaries and more clerks. If the administration had dedicated more funds to CHC’s physical therapy department, perhaps the governor and CNMI taxpayers could avail themselves of the life-changing, pain-relieving physical therapy that the governor says he receives from his masseuse.

True, the budgetary problems plaguing the hospital aren’t the governor’s responsibility alone — there is the do-very-little Legislature that shares in this responsibility. But the hospital’s hiring policies are the sole responsibility of the governor and his Public Health secretary. And there’s, well, the rub.

IT is a pity that weather like this can’t be shared with more tourists from Japan, Russia, Korea or China. Alas, the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) can’t even claim improvements in the tourism industry even at the prodding of some local businessmen. What exactly do MVA officials have in mind? Maybe the details will be revealed in the governor’s transition report that was submitted already, but yet to be disclosed to the waiting public.

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