The parties in the NMI Retirement Fund's lawsuit against the Gov. Benigno R. Fitial's administration went back before Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo for a status conference.
“I feel like a broken record. I've never seen any progress from the government in finding money [to pay the Fund],” Govendo said, drawing laughter from some retirees who watched the proceeding.
The judge said he will not set a review hearing in the case. There was no hearing in the case before Govendo for a couple of months after the Fund filed a bankruptcy petition in federal court.
District Court's recently appointed Fund trustee ad litem Joseph C. Razzano joined the status conference.
Also appearing at the hearing were former Fund Board of Trustees counsel Braddock Huesman, intervenors Commonwealth Ports Authority and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. counsels Robert T. Torres and Joshua Berger, and Fitial and the CNMI government's counsel assistant attorney general Teresita Sablan.
Govendo allowed Commonwealth Retirees Association chair Larry Cabrera to express his concerns about the Fund's situation and urged him to open a communication with Razzano.
Govendo said basically Razzano is the Fund's board considering that the Fund has no board of trustees.
The judge suggested to the government to sell the Mariana House in Washington, D.C. to satisfy the government's arrears with the Fund that has grown over $300 million.
Govendo said the proceeds of the sale will not significantly reduce the government's arrears, but that would be a good faith sign that the government is not hiding behind the law.
The law that the judge was referring to is the local courts' inability to compel collection of the $300 million judgment unless the Legislature appropriated the amount.
The Mariana House has remained idle since January 2009, when the federalization law abolished the office of the CNMI's resident representative to Washington, D.C., which used to occupy the building. The Fitial administration has yet to decide whether to sell or lease out the two-storey building.
To cut the government's expenses, Govendo also mentioned the scholarship program.
The judge said every single bright student can get sources from numerous sources in the U.S.
“The people of the CNMI simply cannot pay their scholarship!” Govendo said.
Govendo also cited the waste of service vehicles. He said except for emergency vehicles, there should be no more government cars and gas even for the Legislature.
“You don't like it, step aside!” the judge said.