The Office of the Attorney General has warned Saipan Mayor Donald G. Flores that his continued violation of Saipan Local Law 17-8 could result in the filing of criminal charges against him.
SLL 17-8 designates the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council chairman as acting mayor when the mayor is off-island.
“Please be aware that failure to abide by SLL 17-8 and appoint the presiding officer of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Delegation (sic) as acting mayor while you are off-island may result in the Office of the Attorney General filing criminal charges against you,” said Attorney General Joey P. San Nicolas in an Oct. 15 letter to Flores.
It wasn’t the first time San Nicolas warned Flores about his failure to abide by the statute. His office sent the mayor a formal notice about his failure to comply with SLL 17-8 on Aug. 1.
“However, the Office of the Attorney General has received evidence that you have still failed to comply with SLL 17-8. Specifically, on at least four separate occasions you failed to appoint the presiding officer of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Delegation (sic) to be ‘acting mayor’ while you were off-island.”
According to the OAG, Flores designated his adviser, Henry Hofschneider, as acting mayor on Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2012; Feb. 4-12, 2013; July 19-22; and Sept. 29-Oct. 4, 2013.
“As explained in our first letter of formal notice, SLL 17-8 explicitly requires the mayor of Saipan to appoint the presiding officer of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Delegation (sic) to be ‘acting mayor’ while the mayor is absent from the Third Senatorial District. SLL 17-8 was a duly enacted law and binding on the Saipan Mayor’s Office. Therefore as mayor of Saipan you are required by law to appoint the presiding officer of the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Delegation (sic) to be acting mayor in your absence. It is a clear violation of the law to appoint anyone of your choosing to be acting mayor, or an ‘officer in charge,’ while you are off-island,” wrote San Nicolas.
Flores may face as much as a year of jail time and fined $1,000 or both if proven guilty of criminal charges for violating the statute.
Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal chair Ramon B. Camacho thanked the OAG and San Nicolas for helping clear the issue.
“I appreciate the AG’s opinion and it was good and it made things clear. The mayor needs to comply with the law because that’s the law. We have to be a model to ordinary people. We are elected officials and the law is the law. I have no quarrel with the mayor. It’s nothing personal,” said Camacho.
Flores earlier said that he continues to ignore SLL 17-8 because it is unconstitutional.
“This office was created by [the] Constitution and we follow Commonwealth law. Saipan Local Law 17-8 is a local law. The only thing that can change the mandate of this office is through constitutional convention or popular initiative,” he said in an interview last week.
Flores insists that the CNMI Constitution always trumps local law.