1/27/12, Fri., 8 p.m.
Hello: Today, I attended the continuation of the Special meeting of the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund (NMIRF) Board of Trustees which started yesterday. One retiree, Ned Arriola, came to attend but had to leave before the meeting started. The Public Utilities Commission was meeting in the Fund’s conference room until almost 3:30 p.m., so the Fund meeting was not able to start until about 3:45 p.m.
During the Public Comment section, I reminded the Board that, prior to going into Executive Session yesterday, I asked and the Chair agreed to let me know of any decisions made in open session after the Executive Session.
In about 5 minutes, Chairman Sixto Igisomar gave extremely brief summaries of actions taken at the end of yesterday’s meeting.
Regarding the Commonwealth Government Employees Credit Union’s (CGECU) request for the Fund to add half a million dollars to the Credit Union's already existing loan with the Fund, the Chair said the matter was not decided. He said Administrator Rich Villagomez and Deputy Administrator Ester Ada were to continue working with the CGECU to determine what they propose. During a break, I spoke to the Administrator and told him I thought it would be irresponsible for the Fund to even consider the request, in view of the fact that the Credit Union is behind in payments on their original loan, and in view of the fact that the Retirement Fund is in deep financial trouble itself. I told him that several retirees had made strong comments to me expressing the same.
Regarding the Merrill Lynch suit against the Fund Trustees and three retirees, Chairman Igisomar said Attorney Brad Huesman was authorized to continue with procedural matters in court.
The CDARS matter was not decided yesterday, pending a telephone call with Wilshire and Associates that evening.
The “Travel” listed in the Agenda was inter-island travel necessary for Fund officials to attend hearings to be held on Rota and Tinian by the Legislative committee which has been formed to seek ways to help revive the Fund. The Board authorized the Administrator to proceed to make the necessary arrangements.
The “Regulations” in the Agenda referred to recently published proposed regulations which are now to be filed as final.
The hiring of a “Board Consultant” was discussed in the Executive Session yesterday but little was said about it at today’s continued meeting, except that the Board quickly approved a contract for $70,000. Later, during the break, I asked the Administrator for more information about this. I asked if the Board intended to take advantage of the 90-day suspension of the Procurement Regulations to put this person on board without a Request for Proposal (RFP). Mr. Villagomez said the Procurement Regulations already allow the Board to hire the Board Consultant on a sole source basis. When I asked who the contractor would be, he told me he did not know. When I asked when they expected to have that person on board, he said “within 2-3 weeks”. When I asked what the contractor would be doing for the Board, he said the contractor would help the Board in “lots of things”.
An Appeal Hearing, No. 10-008 (JSB), had been scheduled for 3 p.m. so this was taken up next. Retiree Jocelyn Bussell was represented by her attorney Ramon Quichocho. Fund Attorney Carolyn Kern represented the Fund. This was a matter of Ms. Bussel retiring when she became permanently disabled a few years after she had turned 62. She was not eligible to retire as Class I (did not have in 10 years) under regular retirement but was eligible when she became disabled. The amount of her pension was in question, as was the timeliness of her filing her appeal. The Administrator had notified her of potential adverse action (reduction of the pension and a recouping of certain funds already given). After both sides were heard, the Chair said a decision would be made within the 90 days allowed. Attorney Quichocho was told that the Fund had not yet taken any adverse action. Mr. Quichocho asked that the Fund continue to hold off on that until Ms. Bussel had exhausted her right to appeal and possible legal remedies.
Administrator Villagomez said he spoke with the Wilshire and Associates’ representative last night and Wilshire responded to certain concerns the Board had about the proposed contract first draft. Wilshire provided a second draft which the Board approved. Although some details were discussed, Chairman Igisomar asked the reporters and me not to mention these, since the Board anticipated negotiating additional contracts in the very near future. The only thing I can say is that the amount of the new contract is considerably less than Wilshire’s original contract with the Fund and will now amount to $165,000. The Board approved the contract and asked the Administrator to expedite its completion.
Yesterday, Administrator Villagomez requested approval to stop moving funds to Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service (CDARS) and stop any roll over of funds now existing there. The Board didn’t want to take action yesterday, pending finalization of the contract with Wilshire. Some funds now in CDARS will have to wait until they mature. Other mutual funds are with the Fund Custodian, Bank of Hawaii. Today, with the contract with Wilshire in progress, the Board approved his request.
The Administrator said he received a draft contract this afternoon to bring Buck Consultants back on board as Actuary. Since the contracts with Wilshire (Investment Consultant) and Buck (Actuary) are in progress, the Administrator asked for approval to withdraw the Request for Proposal (RFP) now in effect for filling these two needs. The Board approved his request.
The next regular meeting of the Board was scheduled for Friday, February 24, 2012 at 1 p.m.
I remind you that these notes are not a formal or official record of this meeting and what is written here is strictly my “understanding” of what transpired; I could be wrong on some points. Often, it is extremely difficult to hear and understand everything being said. There are sometimes items on which I simple don’t feel capable of providing reasonably good interpretations. My notes are abbreviated, and do not always cover all that takes place. To get full and accurate information for yourself, you should personally attend Fund Board meetings.
Further, I remind you to periodically check out the NMIRF website, www.nmiretirement.com, and Glen Hunter’s website for retirees, http://kixproductions.com/cnmiretiree/ Note that Glen administers and updates his website free of charge to help keep retirees informed. There is a lot of valuable information on both these sites. Also, please keep in mind that the Fund is now sending out E-notices to retirees about upcoming meetings and other important matters. To get on their list, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and include your full name and email address.
Warm regards. Donna