Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) sought Tuesday the legal opinion of the Senate’s two legal counsels to what extent former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Joe McDoulett, who is now a private lawyer, can work for the Senate and its committees without the consent of all Senate members.
Manglona requested Senate legal counsels Joe Bermudes and Antonette Villagomez to provide him with a legal opinion whether McDoulett is necessary staff and does CNMI Constitution Article II, Legislative Branch, Section 17, Subsection (c ) mandate that he be employed by the Legislative Bureau director. Manglona said such statute [subsection (c)] provides that the Legislative Bureau “shall provide all required services to the Legislature in connection with duties and responsibilities during sessions and committee meetings.”
The senator also raised with Bermudes and Villagomez the following questions:
If McDoulett is personal staff, does Article II Section 17, Subsection (c ) mean that he should not be afforded the ability to sit in as legal counsel assigned to a Senate committee(s)?
Is there any colorable argument that Mr. McDoulett may be unethically practicing law by working for the Senate, which is already represented by two legal counsels?
McDoulett appeared as Senate special counsel and provided legal assistance during Friday’s joint meeting by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government, Law and Federal Relations and Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations. McDoulett was also present during the full Senate’s special session last Monday.
During Monday’s session, McDoulett sat in the seat normally assigned to floor leader Sen. Vinnie Sablan (R-Saipan), Manglona said.
There was a vacant seat because Sen. Karl R. King-Nabors (R-Tinian) appeared via a virtual platform.
Manglona said it is unclear what McDoulett’s role was at this proceeding since the session was adjourned shortly after the public comment portion of the session.
He said the session’s premature termination was a possible violation of the Open Government Act by Senate president Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) before all CNMI citizens were afforded the right to make comment.
Senators abruptly adjourned Monday’s session after Manglona and Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) almost came to blows inside the Senate chamber during a recess. The session was intended to tackle the proposed rules that would govern the impeachment trial of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
During Monday’s Senate special session’s public comment portion, Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) stated that the fact that a special counsel was specifically hired to draft up the Impeachment Rules and personally participate as the Senate joint committees’ counsel during their meeting Friday instead of Bermudes and Villagomez is “contradictory to and is a betrayal” on the CNMI Constitution.
Babauta also asked if Torres, the Tinian mayor, or the Senate leadership is paying for McDoulett’s services of.
Hofschneider has yet to comment about McDoulett’s role in the matter.