Saipan Mayor Donald P. Flores has not gone off-island on official or unofficial business ever since the Attorney General’s Office warned him that non-compliance with Saipan Local Law 17-08 would warrant the filing of criminal charges against him.
SLL 17-08 designates the Saipan Municipal Council chairman as acting mayor when the mayor—in this case, Flores—is off-island.
In the past and prior to the warning from Attorney General Joey P. San Nicolas, Flores had designated his adviser, Henry Hofschneider, as acting mayor.
Flores said in a recent interview that he hasn’t made any off-island trips since the Oct. 15 warning from the OAG, adding there were also no invitations or reasons to do so.
That is not to say that the Saipan Mayor’s Office is standing pat with regards to SLL 17-08. Flores said they are currently consulting their lawyer and are pushing to have the statute repealed.
“We will be officially responding to that with my lawyer. We are also doing another approach and we’re talking to the Legislature to take a look at the law if it’s constitutional or not. If it’s unconstitutional then it should be repealed,” he said.
The Saipan mayor said SLL 17-08 is unfair and impractical.
“For even one day, that law states that the mayor should do that. Still we’re trying to determine of the enactment of SLL 17-08 is constitutional. The attorney general said that I could be arrested if I leave and would be filed criminal charges.”
According to the OAG, Flores designated his adviser, Hofschneider, as acting mayor on Aug. 30 to Sept. 4, 2012; Feb. 4 to 12, 2013; July 19 to 22; and Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, 2013.
Flores may face as much as a year of jail time and fined $1,000 or both if proven guilty of violating the statute.
Last September, Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council chair Ramon B. Camacho wrote to the OAG complaining about Flores’ continued violation of SLL-17-08.
In the letter, Camacho said that Flores 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.