Admin, lawmakers weigh in on rule of succession

Posted on Jun 09 2011

The Fitial administration would want to hear from Saipan Mayor Donald Flores about his decision to appoint a council member instead of the chairman as “acting mayor,” despite the rule of succession established in the one-month old Saipan Local Law 17-8.

“The administration would like to take this matter up with the mayor upon his return. Obviously, there is now a local law governing this procedure and it should be adhered to,” press secretary Angel Demapan said.

At the same time, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation is seeking a legal opinion on whether the Saipan mayor acted within his authority under the Constitution in appointing a council member instead of the chairman.

During a delegation session yesterday, members argued the mayor’s compliance or noncompliance with the law and his constitutional powers.

In the end, delegation chair Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan), at the request of Rep. Diego Benavente (R-Saipan), asked the legal counsel for an opinion on the matter.

Saipan Local Law 17-8, signed by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on May 9, requires that the Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council chairman becomes the acting mayor when the Saipan mayor is physically absent from the island.

In the absence of the council chair, the vice chair becomes acting Saipan mayor. If the vice chairman is also not available, then it will be the secretary, and so on.

But Flores designated council member Ralph Yumul to serve as acting mayor from June 7 to 9 while the mayor was in Taebaek City in South Korea to sign a sister city agreement with their local officials.

Saipan Municipal Council chair Ramon B. Camacho said the mayor should have followed the law. Camacho was at the Legislature yesterday to bring up the matter with the Saipan delegation, which passed the bill that became SLL 17-8.

Camacho said neither he nor the council has the money to bring the matter to court.

He said he would like to wait for the delegation’s action on the matter, and proceed from there.

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