Members of the Northern Marianas College Board of Regents have voted to remove its two members from the NMC Foundation board-a decision described by its chairman as unconstitutional since regents do not have the power to make such a move.
Regents chair Juan T. Lizama confirmed with the Saipan Tribune yesterday that he and Frank Rabauliman, who chairs the board's fiscal and personnel committee, were removed from the Foundation board in a meeting in June.
The Regents chair and chairperson of the fiscal and personnel committee have traditionally represented the Board of Regents on the Foundation board since its inception.
Saipan Tribune learned that Lizama has continued attending Foundation board meetings, unlike Rabauliman who was one of those who voted yes to remove himself from the board.
“I have a fiduciary responsibility and that's the law. If I will stop attending these [Foundation board] meetings, that would be a dereliction of duty. Yes, the Board of Regents voted to get rid of us in the Foundation board, but I refused to acknowledged that because the BOR has no authority to appoint or remove membership in the Foundation,” Lizama told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
He said the Board of Regents is only authorized to “oversee and monitor” the Foundation's $3-million money, but not “govern” its operation.
“My challenge now is: for the BOR to understand the meaning of the existing Foundation, its total characteristic, and the purpose behind its creation. In having a new foundation board, it doesn't mean we will phase out the 'old' foundation,” he said, citing the benefits that the college can derive from the new foundation.
According to Lizama, his colleagues decided to oust him and Rabauliman from the Foundation board after he “aggressively pleaded” with members to approve the creation of a separate, new foundation for NMC. Lizama admitted that he was among those who agreed to the creation of another foundation for NMC, but admits to being surprised at how “things have moved quicker than expected.”
Lizama believes the consultant's contract recently signed by the new foundation should have not been approved without first resolving the many issues surrounding the new foundation. Among these is the certification from the IRS.
He said the establishment of “MOUs” for the new foundation is also needed before any contract is inked. He also raised concern on the “composition” of both foundations, which he said has so far the same names of officers-a clear conflict.
In an earlier interview with NMC Foundation board chair Dr. Alan Markoff, he said an $8,000 contract has been approved for Steven West, the husband of NMC president Sharon Hart, Ph.D., to develop a plan on how the new foundation will be run. Markoff was off-island yesterday when contacted for comments and has yet to return this reporter's call.
Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from Hart yesterday but the college said that it is unable to give specific updates at this time because key foundation board members are off-island and not returning until the second week of October.
“The Foundation board does plan to meet the end of the month (October) and new board membership and other important matters will be on their agenda. Also, the BOR and the new Foundation are developing an MOU, but again that is not expected to be completed until late October/early November,” a statement from the college stated yesterday.
Sources privy to the issue disclosed that prior to voting for the removal of BOR representatives from the Foundation board, the regents sought a legal opinion and were told that there is no law that prohibits the BOR from removing its members from the Foundation. Thus, a motion was made and approved by all members, except Lizama.