Rep. Tina Sablan bares income, says all public officials should do the same

REPRESENTATIVE Tina Sablan on Thursday disclosed her sources of income and challenged other public officials, elected and appointed, to do same.

A local resident posted on Facebook recently that the Precinct 2 lawmaker is also a staff member of U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.

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Rep. Tina Sablan speaks during a session in May 2019 as House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, back to the camera, listens.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

In an interview, Rep. Tina Sablan said she made a financial disclosure prior to the general elections last year and issued a press release about it.

She said she’s happy to reveal all her sources of income to the public and she also likes to see the financial records of all the other public officials.

“I challenge all public officials including cabinet members to do the same,” she added.

On her Facebook page, Sablan posted the following:

“In this age of austerity, in the midst of illegal overtime payments to cabinet members, murky sole-sourced contracts to politically connected individuals, lavish first-class government travel, and questionable ‘allowances’ and acquisitions of wealth for some public officials, I have been asked to disclose my sources of income.

“I am happy to do so. I have said this before and will say it again: the statements of financial interest of all elected and appointed officials are matters of public interest and should be public records. I have introduced and co-sponsored legislation that would make this so — H.B. 21-58, and another bill that will soon be pre-filed by Minority Leader Ed Propst. And although CNMI law currently requires the public auditor to keep such financial statements confidential, I made mine public before the election and expressly authorized OPA to disclose my statements to anyone who asks.

“I have been a member of the 21st CNMI Legislature since January 2019. The Legislature is a part-time body, according to Article II, Section 13 of the Constitution, and members are allowed to take other jobs, own businesses, and have income sources outside of their legislator salaries. My annual salary as a CNMI legislator is $32,000. My net income is about $800/biweekly, or $1,600/mo. Unlike many CNMI legislators, I do not take an allowance from my office’s operational budget. I have not traveled on the government’s dime. I do not have a government-funded cell phone, vehicle, or gas card. I pay my own bills

“Prior to becoming a member of the legislature, I worked for U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for several years as outreach coordinator/deputy communications director. When I decided to run for local office, I checked with the Ethics Committee of the U.S. House and with the CNMI Office of the Public Auditor, to ensure that I could continue to work in the federal congressional office during the campaign. They confirmed that I could, as long as I did not, of course, campaign during working hours. I switched to part-time employee status during the campaign.

“After I was elected, and before I was sworn into office at the CNMI Legislature, I checked with the Ethics Committee of the U.S. House, the CNMI Office of the Public Auditor, the legal counsel of the CNMI House, and the attorney general, to verify whether I could legally continue to work for the congressional office on a part-time basis, from January to June 2019. They confirmed that I could, as long as I kept the two positions separate, and recused myself from voting or deliberating on matters in which I would be conflicted. I also learned from Ethics Committee staff that it is not uncommon for federal congressional staffers to hold local elected office. (Roll Call recently ran a story about this — see ‘When Congressional Staffers Are Elected Officials Too,’ July 19, 2019.)

“From January to June 2019, I worked part-time for the congressional office as outreach coordinator, at about 15 hours a week. My gross monthly salary was approximately $1,800; minus taxes and other deductions my net income was $1,465/mo. My role was to continue serving as the congressional office’s disaster recovery liaison after Super Typhoon Yutu (a role I also held after Typhoon Soudelor); wrap up pending casework with FEMA and other federal agencies; update the outreach plan; and assist in the transition of my outreach and disaster recovery activities to other staff.

“My part-time employment with the U.S. congressional office ended on June 30, 2019. At this time, outside of my salary as a part-time CNMI legislator, I have no other sources of income. If and when that changes, I will disclose that as well.

“I worked hard to juggle my responsibilities at the U.S. congressional office with my responsibilities at the CNMI Legislature. From January to June, I attended every House and Saipan & Northern Islands Legislative Delegation session, and was an active member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Committee on Health, and the SNILD Ways and Means Committee. After June 30, I also became an active member of the Federal and Foreign Relations Committee. Since January, I have introduced and co-sponsored legislation, written and spoken on matters of public interest, assisted constituents having problems with local government agencies, and partnered with my Precinct 2 colleague Rep. John Paul Sablan to lead multiple village cleanups, community tree plantings, a town hall, and, most recently, an Opportunity Expo. Along with my colleagues in the minority, I have repeatedly called for meaningful, bipartisan legislative oversight on this administration’s mismanagement of our government’s financial resources. I will continue to do so.

“As an elected public servant, I work for you. I take my duties seriously, and I value transparency and accountability. My financial interests and all actions that I take on your behalf are open to public scrutiny. This should be so for every elected and appointed government official.”