• 3/13/12 Superior Court Forum for Retirement Fund Problem

    3/13/12, Tues., 9:30 p.m.

    Hi: IMPORTANT: For any of you planning to attend the forum tomorrow (Wed.), there will be none.
     
    Today, I attended the forum (for lack of a better word) called for by Superior Court Judge Ken Govendo. Judge Govendo’s invitation was to “ the Fund’s Board of Trustees, officers and members of the Commonwealth Retirees’ [Retirement] Association, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, Senators, members of the House of Representatives, all Directors of the autonomous agencies, and all interested parties to attend this gathering…”. His “Invitation” stated that the purpose was “ for the Government and interested parties to come together to voice their concerns, ideas and recommendations.” As I wrote you before, I did not take any notes. Hearing and trying to understand the many speakers was extremely difficult, even more so than it has been during regular hearings at the Court before. Oftentimes, some in the audience were talking among themselves and the Judge and speaker at the podium were impossible to hear.

     
    The forum started at 9 a.m. and continued to 11:45 a.m. After the lunch break, the forum resumed at 1:40 p.m. and continued until 4:30 p.m. The morning session was attended by approximately 40 retirees at the peak and about 20 remained when it was stopped for lunch. Commonwealth Retirement Association Chairman Larry Cabrera and Treasurer Oscar C. Camacho attended, although Chairman Cabrera did not stay the entire time.

     
    Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund (NMIRF or Fund) Board of Trustees Marian Tudela, and former Trustee Sixto Igisomar attended (Trustee Bernadita Palacios was off island for medical reasons and Trustee Nacrina Barcinas could not get a flight out of Rota). Administrator Rich Villagomez and Board Attorney Viola Alepuyo also attended

     
    Senate President Paul A. Manglona and House Speaker Eliceo Cabrera attended the morning session, although the Speaker did not stay long. I saw Senator Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and was told that Representative Edmund Sablan Villagomez and Representative Rafael Sablan Demapan, Jr. were also present.

     
    Although the Governor and Lt. Governor had been invited, the only representative of the Administration in the morning forum was Finance Secretary Larissa C. Larson and a government attorney.
     
    During the afternoon session Fund Trustee Adelina Roberto joined the NMIRF group, as did Fund Attorney Christopher Timmons. Retirees attending dwindled to about 15 at the peak and 12 at the end. Not one elected official or representative of the Administration attended in the afternoon

     
    At the very beginning, Judge Govendo made it clear he would not be the one making any decision to defer retirees’ pensions. One reason he gave was that, to do so, would leave any retiree who felt aggrieved with no place to file a lawsuit, since they would not be able to file in Superior Court. At the end of the forum, Attorney Alepuyo again put forth the Fund’s plea for the Judge to take this responsibility. The Judge reiterated his stand and cautioned the Fund to begin making other plans, whether getting a Constitutional Amendment proposal on the November 2011 ballot, finding another solution, asking for receivership, or planning for liquidation by July 2014. Regarding receivership, the Judge cautioned that it could be “very Draconian” and mean the stopping of checks to all retirees or groups of beneficiaries (surviving spouses, children, those with disabilities, etc.). He asked Ms. Alepuyo who might be recommended as the receiver should it come to that. She responded that only two names came to mind, current Fund Administrator Rich Villagomez and former Administrator Mark Aguon (now residing in Houston, Texas.)

     
    He also urged retirees to come together as one cohesive unit to influence politics in favor of the Fund, whether by lobbying or by voting appropriately. [Just imagine the power and influence of a body 6,000 strong (retirees and those still working in the Defined Benefit Plan) or even 3,000 strong (just retirees). A united group of retirees could be a powerful force to be reckoned with. DJC] 

     
    Those who spoke out at the forum were:
    Larry Cabrera, Chairman CRA
    Oscar Camacho, Treasurer CRA
    Juan M. Sablan, Former Chair of CRA
    Ivan Probst, Retiree
    Richard Waldo, Retiree
    Frances Teregeyo, Retiree

    Herminia Fusco, Retiree
    Angelina Tudela Dela Cruz, Retiree
    Dianne Domingo, Retiree
    Elaine Deleon Guerrero, Retiree
    Sixto Igisomar, Former Fund Board Chair
    Paul A. Manglona, Senate President
    Larissa C. Larson, Finance Secretary

     
    I will not try to explain to you what each of the speakers and the Judge had to say, as I took no notes and hearing was often impossible, and I would not want to make any incorrect assumptions.
     
    Warm regards. Donna

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