Like last year, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero did not show up at a budget hearing for DPS before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee yesterday afternoon.
The hearing did not last long as committee chair Rep. Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota) decided after meeting with committee members to resume the hearing on Friday at 2:30pm in order for Guerrero to appear as they have many questions for him.
If Guerrero fails to appear this Friday, Manglona said they have the option to subpoena him to show up.
At the start of the hearing, Manglona said DPS has submitted a request of $9.97 million based on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ proposal, with general fund and the American Rescue Plan Act funding, yet the administration proposes $6.89 million and this translates to a shortfall of $3.08 million.
Appearing for DPS were administration director Kaye Inos, Bureau of Motor Vehicle director Juana Leon Guerrero, and human resources manager Esther Delos Reyes.
Inos said they are in acceptance of the governor’s proposal in its entirety.
If so, Manglona asked, how would DPS operate with this $3 million shortfall, based on what the governor had proposed and what the department had asked for.
Inos said they have a little remaining money for guard services fee that they have been receiving for three years and money from other special accounts. “You know, we understand that the CNMI government is not making a lot of money now. There’s a lot of things that we can do without,” she said.
Later, Manglona asked why the commissioner is not in the chamber. Inos said Guerrero told her that he had a prior scheduled meeting.
Manglona said they did get hold of one of the officers, who had confirmed the commissioner’s attendance so he just wanted to find out why he’s not there. Inos said she does not know who confirmed the commissioner’s attendance.
After Inos answered some questions from Rep. Corina Magofna (D-Saipan), Manglona called for a short recess as he and the members would meet in the conference room to discuss further action on how they are going to move forward with the hearing.
After the short meeting, Manglona announced that this will be the second time that they’ve scheduled a hearing with the commissioner.
“And again, for the record, the commissioner is not here today due to a prior meeting that was scheduled. But it seems like a lot of the questions that the members have is something that the commissioner will need to answer for himself,” Manglona said.
The chair said it’s been decided that they will adjourn the meeting and call for another one this Friday, where an option of subpoena will be on the agenda should the commissioner fail to appear before the committee.
Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan) said it is unfortunate that they are not able to speak with the commissioner for a second year in a row.
“And I fully support rescheduling as there are many questions that we have that only he can answer. I really believe that we need to hear directly from the commissioner,” Staffler said.
Manglona said they will invite the commissioner to come before the committee this Friday and still allow him to answer questions related to the budget. “If he doesn’t show up then we have that option on the agenda to issue a subpoena,” Manglona said.
At the Ways and Means budget hearing for DPS on June 8, 2021, Guerrero did not appear as he was on Tinian, apparently for an emergency that he needed to attend.
The hearing was continued to June 11, 2021, but Guerrero called Manglona a day before (June 10) that he is on medical leave and asked to reschedule the hearing.
Citing a lack of time, Manglona then decided not to call the commissioner to a hearing on DPS fiscal year 2022 budget.