NMI Healthcare Corp. CEO’s Contract Decision Delayed

admin's picture

Meanwhile, board chairman accused of improper conduct

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 5, 2013) – The decision whether to retain Juan N. Babauta as chief executive officer of the Northern Marianas’ Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHC) has been put on hold after Governor Eloy S. Inos asked the board to hold back on any action on the CEO's fate.

Corporation board chair Joaquin Torres told Saipan Tribune yesterday that all board members agreed to delay any decision on the matter pursuant to the request of the new administration.

The board was supposed to decide on Babauta's employment contract on Thursday, March 7. The board's special panel was also set to meet today, March 5, to assess the result of a survey among hospital employees regarding the CEO's performance.

Torres said that Thursday's meeting will be suspended until further notice, including today's scheduled meeting of the special committee.

He also disclosed that committee chair Pedro Dela Cruz cannot fly to Saipan from Rota due to mechanical problems with the aircraft.

Saipan Tribune learned that corporation board members met with Inos last week during which the governor made the request to delay the decision on Babauta's contract.

According to Torres, the governor made the request so that Babauta could focus on the scheduled exit of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps team on March 12.

However, Torres said the "work and processes for the CEO's performance evaluation" will continue as soon as Dela Cruz arrives from Rota.

He said the employees' survey forms, which are just one of the many factors that will affect the board's decision, have already been submitted but have yet to be reviewed.

'Improper conduct'

Meantime, the hospital's COO and chief financial officer, Esther Muña, has accused Torres of "improper conduct."

Torres reportedly asked Muña on Feb. 8 to submit within that day several documents and information about the corporation for a planned "oversight review" of the CFO's office.

Muña was also reportedly advised by Torres to be prepared to answer questions about loans made with MPLT and to prepare reports on the unpaid annual leaves of employees, new hires, and personnel who received salary adjustments, among others.

Muña, who is the corporation's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, reportedly told Torres to "stop the harassment" as she doesn't deserve it.

Saipan Tribune learned that Muna's complaint against Torres was submitted to the governor and the Office of the Attorney General, both of which have yet to respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Saipan Tribune learned that Muña received a message from the governor's legal counsel, James R. Stump, that such conduct is both improper and unwarranted. In the same communication, Stump reportedly told Muña that "board members are only a policymaking board advising the CEO" and that it has no authority over the COO.

Torres' response

Torres pointed out, however, that he has been asking Muña to provide the board with several documents since January but she has yet to submit any.

"This started the request for documents/information to Esther. After receiving no responsive response from her I sent out reminders. There was no excuse to fail to provide monthly financial statement since these are required by Public Law 16-51, the law establishing the corporation," said Torres, showing his email request to the COO dated Jan. 31.

"Esther, please provide me a monthly statement/report of income and expenditure for the period beginning Oct.1, 2012, to the present. In addition, provide me a listing of all new hires for the period as above, which list shall include the name, position, salary, and justification for each such hire. Include current employees who received salary increases for the period. Lastly, provide me a list of cost cutting/saving initiatives that were implemented in [fiscal year] 2012 and the amount cut and/or saved," stated Torres' email to Muña in January, adding that he plans to call for a board meeting the following week so he would like to have these information and materials before the meeting.

Torres said he reminded Muña of his request on Feb. 8.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment