CCC counsel Ernest resigns

From 39 last May, CCC now only has 14 staff

Commonwealth Casino Commission legal counsel Michael Ernest has resigned, leaving the CCC with only 14 staff, including executive director Andrew Yeom.

Ernest, who is an assistant attorney general detailed to the CCC, informed the CCC board about his resignation during CCC board’s regular monthly meeting yesterday at the Springs Plaza in Gualo Rai.

Ernest has been CCC’s legal counsel for six years now, since he rejoined the Office of the Attorney General in 2015.

From 39 employees last May, CCC’s number of employees has dwindled due to the termination of 20 employees as a result of budget constraint and the resignation of others.

In an interview, Ernest said he resigned from the Office of the Attorney General because he has accepted a position with the Public School System as its legal counsel.

He submitted his resignation to Attorney General Edward Manibusan a few weeks ago.

Ernest’s last day with CCC is Aug. 8. He will start with PSS the following day, Aug. 9.

“I’m very much looking forward to the new opportunity. I cherish my time with the Casino Commission,” he said, adding that he learned a great deal in his work with CCC for six years and that he had a wonderful time with “amazing colleagues.”

“While I’m sad to leave, I’m looking forward to the new opportunity at the Public School System,” he said.

As PSS legal counsel, he said he will be doing whatever the board assigns him to do. “I think I have various responsibilities. I’m not quite clear what they will be yet,” he said.

Ernest said he stated his acceptance of a position at PSS in his resignation letter. “It’s just time. I’ve been here for six years, and looking forward working with PSS,” he said.

Ernest’s term with the OAG is supposed to expire in March next year. From 2005 to 2011 he worked with the OAG’s Criminal Division. He rejoined the OAG in 2015 and was assigned to the Civil Division and then as CCC counsel. In total he served 12 years with OAG.

Assistant attorney general Keisha Blaise, who is Ernest’s replacement as counsel for CCC, appeared at yesterday’s CCC board meeting.

Yeom told the board that Blaise has been assigned to CCC only on a part-time basis due to the OAG’s lack of staff. He expressed concern over this part-time set up, saying that CCC needs full time attention to its ongoing legal proceedings against Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC that has started out with IPI’s appealing before the Superior Court the CCC board’s order that suspended IPI’s casino license.

Yeom said it hurts to lose a counsel who has been trained and is fully up to date with all the issues that the CCC is faced with.

“At the end of the day, we need a full-time lawyer who can devote his or her time and labor full time and be more self-sufficient and self-reliant, especially with our workforce that has been reduced to a bare minimum,” Yeom said.

Aside from terminations to reduce its number of employees, Yeom said there have been undesired resignations that will impact the organization in that those who remain will be working with more areas to cover.

He disclosed that their entire audit division staff, including the audit manager and accountant who manages the payroll and internal office accounting, are all joining the Department of Finance.

“These are all undesired resignations that will have significant impact to our duties and functions. I am very disappointed, upset, perturbed, and maybe even speechless,” Yeom said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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