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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

‘SDLLC, Fitial may have been violating TRO on $190.8M power deal’

Rep. Janet Maratita (IR-Saipan) said yesterday that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Saipan Developmental LLC should be held in contempt and fined up to $10,000 daily for allegedly violating a temporary restraining order prohibiting them from pursuing and/or performing on the sole-source $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement. Maratita, at the same time, asked Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) yesterday to stop meeting with SDLLC officials so as not to compromise their legal position on the case.

Ayuyu, for his part, said Maratita may have gone too far.

“No one can instruct me or stop me from meeting people if I need to get the information that the public needs to know about the power purchase agreement. As a senator and chairman of the PUTC [Public Utilities, Transportation and Communications] Committee, I will find the right information from the people directly involved in this PPA,” Ayuyu told Saipan Tribune.

Maratita issued a public statement yesterday afternoon, calling on senators to “respect the people” and to “not hold private meetings” with SDLLC.

She also wrote a two-page letter to Ayuyu, telling him that it is “improper” for him to entertain SDLLC officials.

At around 4:20pm, Maratita, through attorney Ramon Quichocho, also requested the Superior Court to enter an order to show cause why Fitial and SDLLC should not be held in contempt.

Maratita asked the court to direct and order Fitial and SDLLC to comply with an Aug. 31 preliminary injunction and a Sept. 5 supplemental preliminary injunction, by refraining from pursuing the Aug. 3 PPA and all related agreements until final judgment is rendered in this case.

She asked the court to fine Fitial and SDLLC up to $10,000 per day, for each day that any of them fails to comply with the preliminary and/or supplemental preliminary injunction.

Ayuyu said he and Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan) met with SDLLC’s Kenneth Mahmood two weeks ago. The governor was in the same meeting.

The senators expect to have another meeting with other SDLLC officials this week.

Fitial also met with Kenneth Mahmood and SDLLC’s Jason Osborne, his former campaign manager.

The governor is currently in the Philippines on a regional fisheries conference, along with press secretary Angel Demapan, first lady Josie Fitial, and Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Richard Seman, a representative-elect under Fitial’s Republican Party.

Ayuyu said SDLLC’s David Mahmood and Don Kurz are also expected to arrive on island.

‘Stop the meetings’

Maratita asked senators to refrain from meeting privately with anyone regarding the PPA, one of the issues in a defeated resolution impeaching Fitial for 16 allegations of corruption, neglect of duty and felony.

“Any meeting with SDLLC officials should be open and public. This is the time for transparency, not the time to meet privately with anyone,” she said.

Ayuyu and Torres had said any upcoming meeting will be held in the Senate or the House, so that the general public would have a chance to listen in to the discussions.

Ayuyu said he respects the court process, and at the same time, he recognizes that the Legislature has the right to obtain information from SDLLLC especially because the PPA affects a large number of people.

The full Senate joined Maratita, as well as Rep. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan), in asking the court to stop the PPA.

Ayuyu was also main author of a Senate resolution asking the governor to cancel the RFP.

Maratita asked Ayuyu to “maintain your course and respect the judicial process.”

“Your decision to meet with SDLLC officials outside of a public hearing goes against transparency and could be construed as a step in the wrong direction. If the SDLLC officials have anything of educational value to share, they should not be meeting privately with legislators. If they have anything to say, it should be in a public forum. The time for secrecy is over now that this matter is in the courts,” she said.

In her letter to Ayuyu, Maratita said it is “improper for you to entertain individuals who did not appear to care to discuss this matter with the Legislature prior to the sole-source contract being executed.”

“Accordingly, as the principal litigant in the lawsuit filed on behalf of the people of the CNMI, I ask that you refrain from meeting with any officials of SDLLC outside of a public hearing as it may compromise our legal position and undermine our cause,” she said in her letter.

Ayuyu said he hasn’t seen Maratita’s letter yet but heard only of its contents.

He said it is important that lawmakers and the public in general hear directly from SDLLC officials “on how we ended up with this contract, this agreement.”

Ayuyu said SDLLC is still pursuing a multimillion-dollar shipyard facility and a diesel power plant.

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