DEPARTMENT of Public Lands Secretary Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo says the Public Lands Advisory Board cannot convene without one more member.
“While Public Law 15-2 requires the establishment of a Public Lands Advisory Board, it specifies that it shall have five members,” she said in a letter to board members Antonio Quitugua, David Evangelista, Henry Hofschneider and William Torres.
“In the absence of quorum requirements in Public Law 15-2, there is no authorization for an advisory board to meet with fewer than full membership,” she added.
In the future, she said, the full board may adopt bylaws authorizing a quorum of fewer than five, “but the board must first be fully constituted.”
Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, who wants the advisory board convened, sought clarification from House legal counsel Joe Taijeron who said:
“There is no legal provision that specifically establishes a quorum for the advisory board. Accordingly, the quorum shall consist of the particular number that the Department of Public Lands, in the absence of any law, determines to be appropriate.”
Taijeron said although the law mandates the establishment of a five-member board, the DPL statute is silent on particular aspects of administrative procedure and does not state how many members of the board would constitute a quorum.
He said the only mention of members’ attendance in DPL’s enabling legislation is found in 1 CMC section 2804 (d), which states, “Failure of an advisory board member to attend any three board meetings shall result in dismissal from the advisory board.”
“Significantly,” he said, “it can be argued that if a quorum of the five-member body was actually five members, then if one member was absent, there could never be a quorum to conduct a meeting to begin with and therefore this rule would be unenforceable.”
According to Taijeron, “in the absence of an express provision as to quorum composition, the CNMI Administrative Procedures Act (1 CMC 9101 et seq.) provides that, ‘[a]ll administrative procedures, including the issuance of rules, authorized by other sections of the Commonwealth Code, shall be made in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless the Legislature shall by law provide otherwise. 1 CMC §§ 9114-9115.”
Thus, the advisory board in cooperation with the DPL secretary should determine what should constitute a quorum, Taijeron said.
He noted that other CNMI boards require a majority of their members to be present for a quorum.
Some other boards with more members require higher numbers for a quorum, he said, “but where there are higher numbers there is a lesser percentage,” citing as an example the Board of Health and Environmental Quality which has 16 members and requires less than half for a quorum.
“Quorums that require the entire membership to be present for business are impractical and rare, if any,” Taijeron said.
In her letter to the four advisory board members, Teregeyo reminded them about the limitation of the board’s role regarding major issues affecting the management of public lands, including DPL’s comprehensive land use plan and homestead program.
“Your proposed agenda ventures far past advice and well into that of oversight,” she said, adding that the board also has no authority to call for public meetings or demand briefings from the department.
“To be clear, the Legislature considered and ultimately rejected the idea of a governing board having authority over the Department of Public Lands,” she said, citing Standing Committee Report 15-1 dated Feb. 22, 2006 regarding the role of the Public Lands Advisory Board.
Source: Marianas Variety