Palacios makes new appointments; Babauta preparing for confirmation hearings

Sen. Celina Roberto Babauta is gearing up for the Senate’s evaluation of Gov. Arnold Palacios’s first set of cabinet, board, and commission appointments.

Unlike the rubber stamp the previous chairman of the Senate Executive Appointments and Government Investigations used to confirm former Gov. Ralph Torres’s appointments, Ms. Babauta is intent on her EAGI committee thoroughly vetting candidate qualifications, verifying information, and demonstrating aptitude for their seats.

“The EAGI committee will thoroughly vet each candidate through a fair, honest and public process,” Ms. Babauta said. “We will examine their education and experiences in the positions they are nominated to and how their credentials will bring added value to the departments they hope to lead.”

The first cabinet members to go through the confirmation process will be the (acting) secretaries of six cabinet departments:

  • Leila Fleming Staffler: Secretary of Labor
  • Joseph S. Rios, Jr.: Secretary of Commerce
  • Ray Yumul: Secretary of Public Works
  • Sylvan Igisomar: Secretary of Land and Natural Resources
  • Tracy Norita: Secretary of Finance
  • Mary Margaret Sablan: Secretary of Community and Cultural Affairs

As previously announced, Anthony C. Torres is seeking Senate confirmation to be the permanent commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

The governor also submitted nominations for members of government boards and commissions. These are:

  • Joseph Patrick P. Fitial: Member, Civil Service Commission
  • Alvaro Santos: Member, Marianas Public Land Trust
  • Phillip Mendiola Long: Member, Marianas Public Land Trust
  • Pedro Itibus: Member, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation Board

The EAGI committee received all the nominations above on February 6. All nominations are pending supporting documents.

“Our government is heading into difficult times ahead and it is critical that the nominees convince the committee of their fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law,” Ms. Babauta said. “In return, we assure the public that we will do our part to vet each candidate without fear or favor.”


  • Russ Mason

      02/09/2023 at 9:28 AM

    When Napoleon became First Consul of France, he appointed people “Of merit, without asking how many degrees of nobility they had.” That was in 1799, and, finally, the CNMI is catching up.

    Still, it would be wise for the government to have some watchdog oversight with all appointees, especially new hires. We’re not quite out of the woods yet, and competence must be demonstrated. As Pres. Reagan advised: “Trust, but verify.”

  • Russ Mason

      02/10/2023 at 9:47 AM

    Vetting candidates is long overdue. In the past, individuals received an appointment because they were someone’s relative. I am happy this nonsense is ending.

    However, there are no guarantees, so the vigilance must be ongoing.

    But this is a great start, and ought to give our citizens hope for the future.

    I feel better already!

  • Russ Mason

      02/10/2023 at 6:19 PM

    As important as Cultural Affairs is to many, the Big Guns are Secretaries of Commerce and Finance. There are the marble pillars of our economy, and candidates need to be vetted for the past ten years. It would also be a good idea for the legislature to hold a public forum on these candidates. This is to allow public opinion to weigh in. Seems only reasonable.

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