And I was surprised by the news of his resignation. The Governor has another 18 months in office. There doesn't seem to be any pressing reason to change Attorney General.
I read the news story looking for clues about the story behind the headlines. Matt's basic reason is a desire to return to private practice. Not every lawyer likes public service; and private practice is generally more lucrative. So this reason seems to cover the decision to resign completely.
But wait--in addition to this, Matt's statement announcing his resignation apparently mentions three specific topics:
1. the AG Office's commitment to fighting corruption (and their close working relationship with the feds in the case against Lieutenant Governor Tim Villagomez).
2. the AG's success in winning a lawsuit against the IRS and bringing in a "major monetary award" of $33 million.
3. the likely increase in tourism soon with an increase in flights, and the relatively small negative effect of federalization.
I find it interesting that Matt chooses these three particular items to highlight in his resignation statement. To me, it hints at stress and disagreements with the Governor.
The first --anti corruption--could almost be a white-wash. This government isn't any better at stopping corruption than any other has been; and in fact it seems wedded to the same corrupt practices of perks and nepotism that we've seen before. But Matt's quote on the bravery of his staff, who fight corruption "at severe career risk" suggests something else. It suggests a reality that the AG's office really is committed to enforcing the law and faces some pressure against doing their jobs.
The second tells us exactly what we've been asking--how much money is the Governor hiding from the CNMI Legislature in his budget projections? It seems that the Governor is funding the federalization lawsuit with public funds, and that he's not put those funds in any budget projection, but has them squirreled away, having received them as awards from litigation. Appropriations, however, are a congressional job, not an executive privilege. This money needs to be reported to the Legislature and subject to Congressional appropriation. Matt's mention of these funds is ammunition for the Legislature to use in getting control over all CNMI public funds.
The third is the most telling of all.
"While federalization has the capacity to damage the economy of the Commonwealth, we have increasing tourism numbers and you'll soon find out there is going to be a significant increase in flights. I believe we may see 19 additional flights in the next few months. So it's a couple steps forwad and one step back. Federalization is a negative but there are positives developing in parallel."
In other words, the doom and gloom disaster that Howard Willens has predicted isn't exactly an accurate portrayal of our likely future, from Matt's POV. And just the fact that Matt would suggest that federalization isn't the evil bogeyman that will send us into a tailspin from which we can't recover makes me think his resignation ties in to disagreements and stresses with the current Admininstration.
Of course, I could be wrong.
Now, I'm wondering who will be the new / next AG?
My predictions: AAG Greg Baka, AAG Tom Gorman, or Howard Willens.