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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tinian mayor negotiates settlement with TCGC counsel

A settlement negotiation is ongoing on a lawsuit filed by the legal counsel of the Tinian Casino Gaming Commission against the Tinian Mayors Office some five years ago.

Attorney Braddock J. Huesman, representing TCGC legal counsel Elliott A. Sattler, and attorney Robert Torres, representing Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz, requested that the status conference scheduled for Thursday vacated to another time next year.

Sattler filed a lawsuit in 2007 against then Tinian Mayor Jose P. San Nicolas involving his attempts to interfere with the TCGC’s budgetary authority.

In a two-page document filed in federal court Thursday, both counsels stated that the parties have engaged in settlement discussions in the hopes of resolving the matter without the need for additional briefing and a hearing. Initial meetings, they said, have gone exceedingly well.

“The parties met on Tinian, discussed the new budgetary law and its effects on the issues surrounding the case. Both sides are evaluating the new budgetary law,” stated the latest filing, adding that the review of the new law is not complete yet but parties are hopeful they can resolve all issues. However, they also admitted that this is not certain at this time.

Also Thursday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona granted the request of both counsels and ordered that status conference for the case continued on Jan. 31, 2013 at 10am.

Sattler earlier moved the federal court to reopen his 2007 lawsuit against the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan after the municipality is again allegedly attempting to interfere with TCGC’s budgetary authority. Sattler has asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to enforce the terms of the consent decree that Sattler and the Tinian and Aguiguan mayor entered in June 2007.

The consent decree, which the federal court approved, provided that the mayor and his agents, could not retaliate against either Sattler or TCGCC by “affecting, altering, or otherwise interfering with the expenditure authority of the commission.”

The court was asked to set a conference for this matter so that Sattler may enforce his rights under the consent decree. An order to show cause why the mayor should not be held in contempt of court for failing to adhere to follow the consent decree was also asked from the federal court.

Five years ago, then Tinian mayor Jose P. San Nicolas attempted to violate Sattler’s rights by interfering with his contract and reducing his salary through a budgetary law that allowed the mayor to usurp TCGC’s budgetary authority. Sattler then filed a lawsuit, but the mayor agreed to enter into a consent decree. Then U.S. District Court for the NMI chief judge Alex Munson reinstated Sattler’s $110,000 per annum salary after declaring as unconstitutional a provision of the Tinian Municipal Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2006.

The current Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz or his agents were allegedly again using budgetary concerns to lower Sattler’s compensation by reducing the sick leave, annual leave, and retirement contributions.

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