Yap governor facing impeachment
Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Yap State Legislature charges Falan with 'misfeasance and malfeasance' over AGO shutdown
By Joyce McClure
The Yap State Legislature has introduced a resolution calling for the impeachment of Yap State Gov. Henry Falan, charging him with "misfeasance and malfeasance" based on his move to close the attorney general’s office.
The announcement was made during a public hearing on Sept. 23. Speaker Vincent Figir, Sen. John Mafel and five other senators signed the resolution.
Three senators declined to sign the resolution.
The legislature will continue the public hearing today. According to a representative from the governor’s office, this is just the beginning of the impeachment process.
The closure of the AG’s office came on the heels of the legislature’s refusal to approve the salaries of the two attorneys general, who had not been paid for nearly two months.
As reported in the Pacific Island Times on Sept. 18, the disagreement between the legislature’s Finance Committee chair Nicolas Figirlaarwon and Falan and their legal counsels is the issuance of a line-item budget that is submitted annually to the legislature by the administration, and the management of the approved budget with an all-up accounting method that Attorney General Eliesa Tuiloma declared is legal.
Falan reopened the AG’s office on Sept. 22 upon declaring a state of emergency in response to “the extensive destruction to the people of Ifalik Island’s main food source from saltwater ingress and the manifestation from drastic adverse weather patterns [that] our state’s Outer Islands are continuously subjected to.”
Using his emergency authority, Falan reinstated the salaries of the two attorneys general.
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The Pacific Island Times called Figir’s office to seek comments but a staff employee said the speaker was not currently in the office. An earlier email sent to the legislature was not answered as of this publication.
The legislature’s impeachment resolution states that the office closure was an act of malfeasance since “there are no current laws (or amendments) that provide for the closure of the office.”
It goes on to say, “The closure of the office of the attorney general substantially affects the successful performance of the duties of the office of the governor.”
The “act of misfeasance” cited in the impeachment resolution states that “ordering the closure of an office in the absence of a law authorizing closure of the office, and an office required by the Constitution to be established by law…constitutes an act performed by the Governor in his official capacity in an illegal manner.”
It goes on to say, “The issuance of an executive order to repeal an act created by law without a law specifically authorizing such action by the governor constitutes the performance of an act by the governor…in a manner so improper as to show deliberate neglect for the duties of his office...”
But the issue points to the ongoing power struggle between the legislature and the administration.
During the impeachment hearing, Mafel noted that he was the first to sign the resolution after looking at it “matter-of-factly.”
He added, “from the discussions we’ve had and with [legal counsel’s] input on the constitutional implications, it was not an easy decision.”
Mafel added that as a member of the legislature “who swore to uphold the constitution, I thought it my duty to put my signature down.”
Last year, Mafel passed a petition around the island to gain enough signatures to recall Falan and Lt. Gov. Jesse Salalu from office.
The allegations against Falan asserted, among other things, “the inability of this administration to fulfill its obligation in appointing an attorney general for nearly half the term.”
Falan presented numerous candidates that were turned down by the legislature.
Mafel was not successful in obtaining the number of signatures required for the recall and the petition was never acted upon. He is now leading the legislature in the impeachment effort.