Saipan Mayor Donald G. Flores says he continues to ignore Saipan Local Law 17-08 because it is unconstitutional. The statute designates the Saipan Municipal Council chairman as acting mayor when the mayor is off-island.
“This office was created by [the] Constitution and we follow Commonwealth law. Saipan Local Law 17-08 is a local law. The only thing that can change the mandate of this office is through constitutional convention or popular initiative,” he said Friday.
Flores insists that the CNMI Constitution always trumps local law and reiterates that if the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council is dead-set in having its chairman serve as acting mayor whenever he is away, then they should work with the Legislature to either pass a popular initiative or convene a constitutional convention.
“Local law cannot change the Constitution. So I feel that [SLL 17-08] is unconstitutional and I swore on the Bible that I will protect the Constitution until it’s changed by constitutional convention or by popular initiative…I have no animosity [toward the municipal council]. I’m protecting the CNMI Constitution. I don’t know [Municipal Council chair Ramon B. Camacho’s] motive. I cannot say anything about that.”
He thinks it’s a complete mystery why the Municipal Council is “always picking” on his office when the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office is also covered by that particular law.
“He’s continuously after the Saipan Mayor’s Office about Local Law 17-08. What about the Northern Islands? The mayor of the Northern Islands is not in his office for a long time, he [Camacho] could be [acting mayor if he wants to]…maybe the mayor of the Northern Islands has the same thinking with the mayor of Saipan, that 17-08 is unconstitutional.”
Henry Hofschneider, Flores’ adviser and the person in charge of his office whenever he is off-island, pointed out that the Municipal Council is not doing anything substantial to help the mayor’s office.
“The Municipal Council is doing something that’s not helping the Saipan Mayor’s Office. We have a responsibility to serve the public and they’re out there promoting something else…public improvement, the Kiosku Project, and what else, the history summit or something? Those are important, too, but are those part of the municipal council’s duties and responsibilities?”
To be fair, Flores and Hofschneider conceded that the Municipal Council’s duties and responsibilities are limited. The two also wished for a better relationship between the two government agencies.
“We want better coordination and meetings with the mayor and the council members but that is not happening,” said Hofschneider, who admitted that Flores has never officially met with Camacho or his council members.
Last month, Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council chair Ramon B. Camacho wrote to the Attorney Generals Office complaining about Flores’ continued violation of SLL-17-08.
“Unfortunately, Mayor Flores has chosen to defy, behave, and act contrary to the intent of SLL 17-08, not once nor twice, but all the time since SLL 17-08 was approved by the governor on May 9, 2011, up to and including his most recent action, dated Aug. 30, 2013, based on a premise that SLL 17-08 has been ignored and violated with impunity,” Camacho wrote in his Sept. 9, 2013, letter to Attorney General Joey San Nicolas.
Camacho also said that even as Flores violates the local law, he instead designates an officer-in-charge “whenever the mayor was physically outside the CNMI on official travel or on personal business.”
Camacho asked San Nicolas to write Flores a letter advising him to comply with SLL 17-08. In absence of that, Camacho said, a certified question to the CNMI Supreme Court or a declaratory relief is an option available to the OAG in effecting the application of SLL 17-08.