NMI Retirement Fund administrator Richard Villagomez told Senate and House of Representatives members yesterday afternoon that that pension agency is not appealing a federal judge's dismissal of the Fund's Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, to the relief of some lawmakers, although some remain skeptic.
“We are not appealing the case,” Villagomez said, responding to a question from Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian) in an open-door meeting in the Senate chamber on Capital Hill.
Cruz said, “Good to hear that.”
As far as lawmakers were concerned, this was the first time Villagomez made such statement that the Fund will not appeal the bankruptcy petition dismissal.
Villagomez, when asked by reporters later on, reiterated that the Fund is not appealing the bankruptcy case dismissal. This was repeated by Fund counsel Chris Timmons, who was also at the meeting with lawmakers.
U.S. District Court for the NMI’s Bankruptcy Division designated judge Robert J. Faris had said that the Fund is a “governmental unit” and not eligible for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.
Senate floor leader Pete Reyes (R-Saipan) said it was a good decision on the Fund's part not to appeal the case dismissal anymore, because doing so would further drain the Fund's assets in legal fees.
“I don't know what's to be gained in appealing the case,” he said.
Lawmakers pointed to reported $1.2 million in legal costs incurred by the Fund related to the bankruptcy filing. The judge has yet to issue a written ruling on the case.
Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, spearheading the administration's efforts, said their advice is for the Fund not to appeal the dismissal but work with the administration on the pension agency's recovery.
Rep. Trenton Conner (R-Tinian) said, “Saying one thing is different from doing something.”
“So until they put it in writing that they will not file for appeal, I will not really believe that. I prefer they put that in writing,” he said.
Rep. Ray Tebuteb (R-Saipan) said he hopes the Fund will make good on its statement that there will no longer be an appeal.