DPS chief no-show at budget hearing

Lawmakers disappointed as DPS commissioner attends Tinian meeting instead

Department of Public Safety officials, from left, Bureau of Motor Vehicles director Juana Leon Guerrero, director for administration Kaye Inos, and human resources manager Esther Delos Reyes during a break in the DPS budget hearing yesterday at the House Committee on Ways and Means. (FERDIE DE LA TORRE)

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Robert Guerrero was a no-show for his department’s budget hearing yesterday before the House Committee on Ways and Means, leaving some committee members disappointed and many questions unanswered.

Instead, the department was represented at the budget hearing by DPS director for administration Kaye Inos, DPS human resources manager Esther Delos Reyes, and DPS Bureau of Motor Vehicles director Juana Leon Guerrero.

Inos informed the committee that Guerrero was on Tinian for a meeting with DPS Tinian resident director Barbara Arend regarding operations.

When asked as to when she became aware that she would be attending the budget hearing, Inos replied that she always attends the DPS budget hearing. As to when Guerrero told her that he would not be at the hearing, Inos said, “Probably last week.”

After the lawmakers finished asking about the DPS budget and departmental operations, committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) announced that the hearing is on recess until this Friday at 12:30pm.

Manglona thanked Inos, Leon Guerrero, and Delos Reyes for their presence but acknowledged that Guerrero’s absence meant that some of the lawmakers’ questions could not be addressed.

He said the committee members have agreed to go on recess until Friday to allow DPS to gather information for some of the questions that were asked that day and were unanswered.

Manglona said they want to see the commissioner this Friday. If Guerrero is not available by then, he said anyone at DPS can inform the committee so the committee can discuss how to proceed with the hearing.

Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) requested DPS Boating Safety officials to appear also at the next hearing because they have a lot of questions.

At the hearing, Inos basically talked about the DPS fiscal year 2022 budget submission in the amount of $9.27 million.

In an interview after the hearing, Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) said she is troubled that Guerrero was unable to attend the hearing. “We’re hoping to [raise] some questions and also get a better understanding of what the department’s needs are for this upcoming fiscal year,” Sablan said.

She believes all committee members share the same sentiment. “It’s still not clear to me exactly why he was not able to attend the budget hearing, why he could not notify the chairman or the committee that he was not planning to attend,” Sablan said.

The lawmaker said they were informed that day (Tuesday) that it was a pre-planned meeting on Tinian, but then also that there was a last-minute change in DPS leadership on Tinian that Guerrero had to attend to.

“So it’s pre-planned scheduled at the last minute. It doesn’t make much sense to me,” Sablan pointed out.

She said she is hoping that they can get some answers from the commissioner and have him present this Friday.

“ We do appreciate the directors who came today. They did their best to answer the questions,” she said.

Sablan said the commissioner didn’t provide the directors with any prepared statements to deliver to the committee, and so they could not answer some of their questions.

Rep. Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan) also expressed disappointment that Guerrero was not there.

At the DPS budget hearing in July 2020, there was a heated discussion, with Guerrero raising his voice multiple times against Sablan following the lawmaker’s back-to-back questions on nepotism, furloughs, and civil service rules.

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 ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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