A joint committee meeting on Capital Hill zeroed in on questions of legality and authority regarding an ongoing tussle between the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. advisory board and its chief executive.
The meeting was initiated as part of an ongoing discussion regarding Senate Bill 18-52 that proposes to transform the CHCC advisory board into a governing body.
Lawmakers earlier summoned CEO Esther Muna and the corporation’s advisory board to two separate meetings to get opinions on the bill, which seeks to amend some sections of Public Law 16-51 that created the corporation.
On Wednesday, Muña and some CHCC executives, including the acting chief financial officer, met with lawmakers, although the discussions focused more on the corporation’s financial standing based on a report by the Office of the Public Auditor.
Muña promised at the meeting to hand over a business plan “soon.”
During the Thursday meeting with lawmakers, members of the CHCC board again cited the alleged shortcomings of the current management and its “lack of transparency.”
Board vice chair Pete Dela Cruz emphasized the lack of financial reports and the failure of the corporation management—from unreported expenditures to unexplained salary increases, which he said, bordered on “criminality.”
When lawmakers asked why the board has not called a meeting with the CEO to address these serious matters, board member Roy Rios said there is a legal opinion from the CHCC legal counsel that only the CEO can convene a meeting.
“If there’s no meeting, then there’s no board session,” Rios said.
Rios said this is why the board’s last meeting was way back in May 2014. The board has not convened since then, he said.
Board chair Joaquin Torres echoed Rios’ comments, saying there is a “lack of communication” between the board and the CEO.
For Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), the question of convening the meeting seems to point to a “simple policy difference” that must be addressed internally.
For Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), the advisory board should go back to Public Law 16-51, and if there are questions on legal matters, perhaps bring these questions to the attorney general. He said the question of who has authority to call for a meeting should be clarified.
With the ongoing legal tussle, it might take a while for lawmakers to discuss and determine what to do with the CHCC advisory board and its embattled CEO.