The Office of the Attorney General will continue to serve as legal counsel for the Commonwealth Election Commission, according to CEC acting executive director Julita A. Villagomez.
Villagomez said Attorney General Edward Manibusan informed her recently that the OAG is still CEC’s legal counsel and that assistant attorney general Michael Witry is assigned to them.
“As of right now, we don’t need to hire a lawyer as our legal counsel,” Villagomez said.
The CEC acting director said if there is a legal issue that comes out that conflicted OAG’s representation, OAG will notify them.
Witry previously worked with the Commonwealth Law Revision Commission where he started in 2013. At the Law Revision Commission, he served as deputy to the attorney for the CNMI Judiciary performing research and writing on legal issues.
Before coming to the CNMI, Witry worked for Idaho Legal Aid Services, where he represented low-income victims of domestic violence in divorce, custody, and civil protection order cases.
CEC board chair Frances M. Sablan in a previous interview said they believe that their legal counsel is still the OAG until Manibusan would tell them otherwise because they have not received black and white, telling them OAG no longer serves as CEC’s legal counsel.
The legal counsel matter was among the issues discussed during CEC’s board meeting last month. The lack of legal counsel at the board meeting prevented CEC commissioners from making a decision whether they have authority to appoint an executive director.
Villagomez has been serving as acting CEC executive director for over a year now. She has been working with CEC for 28 years now.
CEC board chair Sablan said there was a question back in 2014 when the AG’s position was up for the ballot.
Traditionally, the OAG has been CEC’s legal representative.
Sablan said because of the AG position now being on the ballot there was a question that maybe the office can no longer be CEC’s legal counsel.
Sablan said they don’t really need legal representation although they seek them whenever they have any legal questions.