The CNMI Civil Service Commission cannot afford to hire its own hearing officer.
CSC chair Raymond Muña made this revelation last Wednesday, at the public hearing by the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations, for his reappointment as a member of the commission.
“We could not afford to hire a hearing officer,” he said.
Muña said this matter has already been raised with the Office of the Attorney General. “It’s even difficult to try and have an attorney to represent the commission,” he added.
The situation begun soon after Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, when, according to Muña, the economy weakened. “It’s costly. They are the trained experts in dealing with grievances and in dealing with appeals,” he said.
At the moment, Munna said Department of Public Land’s Ray Dela Cruz has been hearing CSC’s cases, as the commission attempts to close out some of the cases, if not all.
The demand for a CSC hearing officer propped up following a statement from private citizen Felipe Q. Atalig, who, during the public comments, lamented how he has been waiting since 2019 relating to his appeal for being terminated by the Department of Public Works in 2018.
The biggest problem, according to Atalig, is that the OAG had directed DPW, when he got taken out, to place him on leave with pay, which DPW did not do.
“The [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance] is coming up. I cannot even assert myself that I am unemployed. I am unemployed. But my case is still pending. Until such time that the hearing officer can [come up with his] finding an analysis of the finding of facts, then I may be eligible to apply for the PUA,” he said. “Right now, nothing, I am still in limbo, and that is the reason why I’m here.”
Sen. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan) said at the session that the Senate could be of assistance in resolving the issue of the lack of a hearing officer.
“This body could be of some assistance, through the budget process, to actually try to help get them [hearing officer] positioned as it’s very, very important that you have that position right now, especially with the anticipation of maybe more cases coming your way,” Sablan told Muña.
Last month, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres announced that CNMI government employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for the PUA and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.