Tinian mayor disagrees with AG’s demand for repayment of Yutu overtime paid to Tinian resident department heads
For those who do not live on Tinian, it is easy to forget two and a half years after Super Typhoon Yutu the total destruction and devastation the second worst storm in U.S. history had on the island of Tinian. Tinian was ground zero and it has been documented that Yutu affected the lives of every single resident on Tinian.
For weeks after the typhoon, there was no power, there was no city water, there was no fuel, there was no access to money, there was no bottled water or ice, there was no laundry service, there was no access to food other than canned food, and countless residents lost their homes and all of their personal belongings.
Unfortunately for the people of Tinian, we remember that day as if it was yesterday. As the mayor of Tinian, I unequivocally disagree with the Attorney General’s opinion that Tinian resident department heads are not entitled to overtime pay as Yutu was a unique and catastrophic event requiring the governor to exert his emergency authority to respond to the disaster.
Moreover, the management of emergencies and disasters in the CNMI is the responsibility of Homeland Security Emergency Management. Tinian, however, only has one HSEM employee and he does not have the authority to manage a disaster the magnitude of Yutu.
Because this was the first super typhoon to hit two islands, HSEM had to focus on Saipan and, as the incoming mayor, I was required to activate my Municipal Operations Command to manage the response and recovery on Tinian.
I activated every single CNMI and municipal employee, to include RDHs, to assist with each and every aspect of our response and recovery efforts. They assisted the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the Individual and Public Assistance programs, the Small Business Administration with client applications, the American Red Cross with distribution of food and financial assistance, management of the distribution center, clearing of roads, crowd control, distribution of water, Tetris program, shelters, shipping logistics, and counseling. Every hour of overtime worked was documented on CAT B forms and approved by HSEM.
I am aware that some of the members of the Legislature have been pushing for the repayment of Yutu overtime hours for quite some time and I am disappointed by their attempt to play politics with this issue that affected so many lives on Tinian. None of them were on Tinian during Yutu and I wonder if any of them had any participation in the response or recovery efforts to truly understand the immense sacrifice Tinian’s RDHs made to leave their families and destroyed homes to report to work to assist our community. And now, two and a half years later, they are told to repay their overtime. Which begs the equity question: Will these same public officials also look into any overtime paid for typhoons Soldelor and Mangkhut and demand for repayment? They should be ashamed to politicize an issue that was so devastating to the people of Tinian and I applaud the governor for his quick response to the disaster and his leadership in issuing his emergency directive for overtime pay.
But this issue cannot end here as we all know that the next super typhoon is just around the corner. Therefore, in order to ensure that the people of Tinian and Rota will have proper and effective management for future emergencies and disasters, I will ask the Legislature to pass a law approving overtime pay for RDHs in times of emergencies and disasters for the islands of Tinian and Rota and I look to all members of the Legislature for your full support.
Edwin P. Aldan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Edwin P. Aldan is mayor of the Municipality of Tinian and Aguiguan.