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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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CNMI Facing $27 Million In Unpaid Judgment Obligations
No payments made until Legislature budgets for them

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 27, 2013) – Attorney General Joey Patrick San Nicolas said the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Legislature has yet to appropriate money to pay the government's outstanding and unpaid judgments and settlements, now at more than $27 million excluding accruing interests, prompting some members of the House of Representatives yesterday to consider the matter when they work on the fiscal year 2014 budget.

These government obligations go as far back as November 2004.

Under CNMI law, any final judgment of a court can only be paid if the Legislature appropriates a budget for it.

There are 17 sets of judgment creditors or claimants on the AG's list, sent to the House and Senate on Feb. 1, three weeks after the 18th Legislature took office. Each is owed by the government anywhere from $20,000 to $11.43 million.

Two more were added to the list from the time former AG Edward Buckingham sent a similar letter two days before he left Saipan on Aug. 2, 2012.

In his five-page letter, San Nicolas urged the Legislature to check with the Office of the Attorney General before passing any appropriation legislation if and when it allocates money to pay any of the judgments because the sums listed "may have changed due to accrued interest or other factors."

"Prior consultation will also allow our office to alert the judgment creditor and consult or possibly negotiate a final satisfactory sum with the judgment creditor," the AG said.

Rep. Ray Tebuteb (IR-Saipan) asked acting Speaker Frank Dela Cruz (IR-Saipan) whether each of the 17 cases or sets of creditors will be reviewed by House committees that have oversight over government entities responsible.

He cited the over $5.9 million judgment the Department of Lands and Natural Resources owes Marine Revitalization Corp. and businessman Anthony Pellegrino, which he said could be reviewed by the House Natural Resources and Ways and Means committees.

"Perhaps we could look at land leases to pay for some of these," Tebuteb said.

Dela Cruz, who presided over the House session yesterday in the absence of Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan), who was sick, tasked Natural Resources Committee chair Rep. Antonio Benavente (IR-Saipan) and Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Tony Sablan (IR-Saipan) to "look into the matter."

Tebuteb also cited the $179,572.59 the Department of Public Works owes Felipe Q. Atalig, which he said could be reviewed by the Ways and Means and the Judiciary and Government Operations committees.

The Inos administration is looking at $114 million in projected revenues available for government operations for fiscal year 2014, the same level as that of 2013.

Based on the AG's list, the biggest amount owed is over $11.43 million plus accruing interest, which the CNMI government needs to pay to the heirs of Managabao in the CNMI v. Lot 353 New-G et al., Superior Court Civil No. 97-0266. The date of judgment was June 10, 2011.

The second highest is the $5.9 million that DLNR needs to pay Pellegrino and MRC, followed by $2.8 million that the central government needs to pay Joaquina Manglona. The latter's judgment date was Oct. 4, 2011.

Also awaiting payments from the government are: heirs of Rita Rogolifoi/Enrique K. Seman ($2.69 million); Tano Group Inc. ($972,915.54); Carmen I. Lizama/estate of Cresencio P. Manglona ($960,000 plus accruing interest); Antonio Ch. Camacho ($754,000 plus accruing interest); Larry T. Lacy/estate of Vincente S. Muna ($568,966.82 plus accruing interest); Episom Land Inc. ($386,381.97); and Jose Ch. Camacho ($280,000 remaining plus accruing interest).

Also on the list are: Erit Fleming David II, Eric David and Tanya David ($200,000); Soledad Cepeda Camacho, Roman DLG Cepeda, Consolacion Cepeda Sablan, Lutmina Cepeda Decherrong, Frank DLG Cepeda, Carmen Cepeda Reyes, Jesus DLG Cepeda and Delores DLC Cepeda ($90,000); Luisa B. Quitugua ($87,578.31 plus accruing interest); Cecilia T. Celes (34,250); Woosung Construction Co. ($32,045); and Randall Fennel ($20,000).

The responsible agencies are DLNR, DPW, Department of Public Lands, Office of the Governor, central government, and the Commonwealth Health Center.

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