CNMI Utilities Agency Face Penalties Without Director

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Contract of current acting executive director ends this month

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Feb. 15, 2013) – The Northern Marianas’ Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC) may be penalized if it fails to hire a qualified deputy executive director within 150 days starting Feb. 28, the day the contract of CUC acting Executive Director Alan W. Fletcher ends.

In an interview on Wednesday, Fletcher told Variety that his position as deputy executive director is required by federal stipulated orders.

He met with the members of the House Committee on Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications at 1 p.m., Wednesday to discuss among other things, utility rates and the stipulated orders.

"When I depart as deputy executive director, CUC has 150 days to fill the position," he said.

He added that the stipulated orders impose penalties if CUC misses the deadline to hire a qualified deputy executive director.

Although federal authorities have not yet imposed penalties, Fletcher said "We don’t know what the future holds."

He said he is passionate about CUC "but my contract ends on Feb. 28 and I don’t have any comment besides that."

Meanwhile, an anti-corruption activist is asking Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider, Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero and U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan to join him in requesting the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of Public Auditor to investigate the governor’s "retaliatory tactics," referring to the non-renewal of Fletcher’s contract.

Glen Hunter also asked them to publicly condemn Fitial’s action.

Hunted noted that Fletcher was one of those who testified against the $190 million power-purchase agreement that Fitial signed with Saipan Development LLC, and was included in the articles of impeachment.

Unlike other administration officials, Fletcher did not plead the 5th Amendment during the first impeachment hearings last year.

Hunter said allowing Fletcher’s dismissal "would send a devastating message to a community that has only recently begun to step out of a cave of fear."

He added, "The governor’s decision not to renew Fletcher’s contract comes just before the Senate is about to begin the trial on the matter that Alan testified on. I don’t think the reason for his non-renewal can get any clearer than that."

According to Hunter, "It is also very upsetting that we in the business sector are yet again going to be harmed by this governor’s personal vendettas and attempted personal gains."

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