Ruszala: It was a privilege to serve the CNMI

Camacho to handle CUC public information responsibilities

Brad Ruszala will be officially separating with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. on Monday after its board of directors abolished its public information office in January.

Ruszala, who has been with CUC less than a year but has played a vital role in the aftermath Typhoon Soudelor, thanked the public for the opportunity to serve them.

“I am and will forever be grateful to the people of the CNMI for the love and support they provided our team during the Typhoon Soudelor recovery efforts…It was indeed and honor and a privilege to serve our community as the public information officer for the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.,” Ruszala said.

He added that the experience was one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had in his 12 years as a communications professional in the Marianas.

“I never fully appreciated the power of communications until serving our people as CUC’s public information officer. Knowing that my job made a difference in my community provided me with the fuel I needed to get through the most challenging times,” Ruszala said.

Since serving as PIO last April, Ruszala said his greatest contribution to the corporation was to put a face on the “dedicated and hardworking team” of CUC.

“My goal was to put a face, or rather faces, to the corporation so the people of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota could better appreciate the efforts of the men and women who work around the clock during the most dangerous conditions,” Ruszala said, “Having someone in the field to document their efforts showed our customers just how courageous and dedicated our employees are.”

Conflict of interest?
Ruszala declined to comment when asked if he saw the removal of his position as the board’s intention to fire him.

However, an instance prior to Ruszala’s hiring showed one of the board members’ “deep personal bias against” him and “a potential conflict of interest in his handling of the matter.”

This was shown in a memorandum dated Mar. 2, 2015, when Ruszala was just a candidate for the PIO position.

Then executive director Alan Fletcher wrote to the board “a matter regarding the reported conduct of CUC board director Eric San Nicolas in regards to a human resources matter.”

“It was reported to me last week by Frankie Cepeda, Human Resources Manager, on Friday, February 20, 2015, Director San Nicolas made a threat against a job applicant for the Public Information Officer position,” Fletcher said in the memo.

The memo further states that San Nicolas conversed with Cepeda in Chamorro saying that “if I (Director San Nicolas) had a gun I’d shoot him, I am serious I am not kidding” and that “he will not be hired.”

When the board brought up the abolishment of the PIO position in Jan. 25, it was San Nicolas who seconded the motion to abolish made by director Albert Taitano.

With Ruszala’s position being abolished after four yeses from chair Adelina Roberto, San Nicolas, and directors Taitano and Diego Songao, the responsibility to disseminate information to the public now rests with the office of the executive director, currently being headed by Gary Camacho in his acting capacity.

Added responsibility
Asked if he can handle the added responsibility, Camacho said, “First of all, the board made a decision, we have to move forward. There was a certain period of time when managers and along with my position, my current position, would take on that responsibility.”

Camacho himself shared that they have a lot of work going on at CUC right now.

“We got a lot of work to do right now. We have maintenance for water, we’re coming out of the Typhoon Soudelor recovery program and then we’re doing a lot of the internal, financial submittals for FEMA for reimbursement and we’re trying to prepare apprenticeship program, staff development programs,” Camacho said.

“We have to make necessary adjustments, I think the staffing will,” he added.

“Gary Camacho oversaw the complete rebuilding of our island’s power transmission and distribution system from scratch in the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor. He knows our utility, he knows our people, and he’s a proven problem-solver. I learned a lot from him in the past year and I wish him the best,” Ruszala said.

Ruszala only hopes that CUC would be transparent to giving information to the public.

“As a loyal, bill-paying CUC customer for the past 13 years, I hope our public corporation continues to embrace a transparent approach to the flow of information to our community. CUC is not a private business and the community is entitled to know what’s happening with their utility,” Ruszala said.

With his separation from CUC, Ruszala said his immediate plan would be to spend more time with his family.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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