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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Resolution urges governor to fire Fletcher as CUC chief

House vice speaker Frank Dela Cruz (Ind-Saipan) pre-filed on Friday a resolution requesting Gov. Eloy S. Inos to relieve Alan Fletcher from his duties as Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director, citing his “poor record of performance.” Inos was expected to return over the weekend from Hawaii where he met with the U.S. Pacific Command.

“Based on Fletcher’s record of performance and based on further review, it is quite clear that Fletcher is not able to carry out the duties and responsibilities to manage the administration and operation of CUC in a satisfactory manner,” the resolution reads.

Dela Cruz, vice chairman of the House Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications Committee, said that CUC has repeatedly requested and received utility rate increases that have resulted in “CUC being enriched to the point where CUC is benefiting to the detriment of the CNMI’s suffering people.”

The resolution’s pre-filing comes days after the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission initially agreed to CUC’s proposed increase in electric base rates.

This means CUC, upon the effective date of CPUC’s order, will be authorized to increase its electric base rates to produce $2.8 million on an annualized basis. This increase would be accomplished with the creation of a $0.021 per kWh “infrastructure surcharge” that the commission also approved for implementation.

In his resolution, Dela Cruz said CUC makes continuous petitions to CPUC to raise rates without plans of cost reductions within CUC.

He added that the corporation “has made it a habit to operate without transparency” and has failed to cut its rates to the Department of Public Works to reflect savings realized pursuant to switching to liquid emitting diodes or LED street lights funded through ARRA.

The lawmaker also said CUC has added a fleet of non-efficient vehicles that consume high amounts of fuel.

He added that CUC recently expanded its office space for executives after renting a new office space for a power distribution crew at another location.

“CUC has been outfitting executive offices with lavish furnishings at a time when the regular customers find it very hard to even pay their utility bills,” the resolution reads.

Dela Cruz, in his resolution co-sponsored by other members, cited what he described as a “classic example of the practice of nepotism within the corporation,” referring to another CUC executive.

The vice speaker added that CUC has failed to terminate an employee who was convicted and found guilty of theft of service and that the same employee is still under CUC payroll.

Dela Cruz also said Fletcher favored change order No. 5 that served to extend up to 15 years a contract for Telesource on Tinian, and increased contract payment for this extension.

He said Fletcher appears to want the CNMI to be locked in to this Telesource contract “when it should be looking for ways and alternative to generating electricity thereby realizing savings to its consumers.”

The vice speaker said CUC’s water and wastewater electric charges are two times higher than actual water usage, thereby aggravating the high cost of utilities.

“Mr. Fletcher has no plans for moving forward or how to balance the management and operations of CUC versus a fair and equitable rate for utilities for its customers,” Dela Cruz added.

Fletcher has yet to respond to request for comment.

Fletcher was first hired at CUC in February 2011 as deputy executive director and administrator of the water and wastewater division. He had been at CUC’s helm in an acting capacity since May 2012. Inos later selected Fletcher to serve as CUC executive director.

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