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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lawmakers: Non-renewal of Fletcher’s contract ‘retaliation’

Lawmakers said yesterday that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial’s decision not to renew the contract of Commonwealth Utilities Corp. acting executive director Alan W. Fletcher may have been an act of “retaliation” against Fletcher for not seeing eye-to-eye with the governor on a sole-source $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement.

House Vice Speaker Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) described it as “discreet retaliation.”

“Mr. Fletcher made the governor look bad with regards to the PPA ordeal and now he is paying the price,” Dela Cruz told Saipan Tribune.

He likened this to the “forced resignation” of former Public Lands secretary Oscar Babauta and former Public Lands secretary Martin Sablan.

“But this is the governor’s modus operandi,” said Dela Cruz.

House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan), for his part, said it is regretful that Fletcher would be let go. He said he had an inkling that the governor would make Fletcher pay for his position on the PPA during the impeachment proceedings at the House in the 17th Legislature. He said he was thinking Fletcher “would have to pay for his disloyal behavior.”

“And I think that is happening now. It’s regretful. He was brought in for a reason, it was for a stipulated order requiring his expertise… I don’t know what the governor intends to do but we certainly still have to meet all those requirements… I think this sets us back,” he told reporters yesterday.

Fletcher testified before House and Senate committees during inquiries about the sole-source PPA that the governor and his former attorney general signed amid concerns from CUC experts themselves. The governor’s signing of the 25-year PPA, which lawmakers learned of only from the media, is one of the issues that led to the impeachment of the governor.

Fitial has been impeached on 18 charges of corruption, felony, and neglect of duty.

“And although maybe we can’t prove it but it’s unfortunate that it appears to be a retaliation to Mr. Fletcher’s lack of cooperation,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Fitial’s allies in the House blamed Fletcher for allegedly failing to advise the governor against signing the power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC, although Fletcher said the governor had already signed the PPA prior to consulting CUC about it.

The governor has placed CUC under a state of emergency, placing it directly under his control.

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