Gov. Benigno R. Fitial will not be appointing assistant attorney general Viola Alepuyo as attorney general, a post she is currently holding in an acting capacity. Press secretary Angel Demapan said this when asked for comment Sunday, adding that the governor will be appointing another person as AG.
Demapan also clarified that Alepuyo “was hired as an assistant attorney general, not as attorney general.”
“As an assistant AG, Alepuyo was designated acting AG following the resignation of the then attorney general. The OAG had already looked into this matter long before there was a lawsuit. The acting AG opined that the statute does not apply because she is not a nominee, but merely an assistant AG designated to take charge until a new AG has been appointed and confirmed,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.
Any permanent AG appointment needs the advice and consent of the Senate.
Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), chairman of the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations, said his committee has yet to receive any AG appointment from the governor.
Fitial named Alepuyo acting AG on Aug. 13 when the governor accepted Edward T. Buckingham's second resignation “due to personal and medical reasons.” Buckingham is the subject of a bench warrant for failing to show up in court despite a penal summons to face criminal charges filed against him by the Office of the Public Auditor.
A resolution impeaching the governor includes allegations that Fitial neglected his duty when he failed to terminate Buckingham when it was evident he violated laws when he hosted a meet-and-greet for a delegate candidate at the governor's house in 2010, among other things.
On Friday, private citizen Glen Hunter filed a lawsuit against Fitial and Alepuyo. Hunter said the law requires that the governor submit an AG nominee's name to the Senate within 30 days from the date that person was temporarily appointed. He said it's been over two months since the Aug. 13 temporary appointment, adding that Alepuyo is illegally occupying her post and her salary is an illegal expenditure of public funds after the initial 30 days.