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Thursday, April 17, 2014

‘Open meeting with SDLLC on PPA’

Should they agree to meet with Saipan Development LLC on the sole-source $190.8-million diesel power purchase agreement, lawmakers said the meeting should take place at the Legislature on Capital Hill where the discussions could be aired on television and open to the public. This, even as Rep. Janet Maratita’s (IR-Saipan) counsel, Ray Quichocho, provided the court on Friday afternoon a copy of a text message from Gov. Benigno R. Fitial to Sen. Juan Ayuyu (Ind-Rota) as evidence in the Dec. 28 show cause hearing.

Fitial and SDLLC were ordered to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for failing to obey preliminary injunction orders on the power deal.

Ayuyu himself said if there’s going to be another meeting, he would like it to be in the Senate or House chamber.

Senate Vice President Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and Sen. Ralph Torres (R-Saipan), who also met with SDLLC adviser Kenneth Mahmood three weeks ago, echoed Ayuyu’s statement.

The three senators said it was SDLLC’s Mahmood that invited them to a meeting a few weeks ago. Fitial was also in that meeting.

On Friday, Quichocho filed the text message exhibit. The text message was forwarded to Quichocho’s mobile phone from Ayuyu’s mobile phone on Dec. 6.

The message was believed to have originated from Fitial’s mobile phone.

The text message reads, “Good afternoon Senator Ayuyu. Thank you so much for your time this morning. I hope that the informal meeting this morning helped clarify the major issues concerning the Power Purchase Agreement with the Saipan Development Power Plant company. The company’s official representative [Jason Osborne] will arrive Saipan next week. I wish to invite you and your colleagues to meet with him after his arrival next week to further discuss the new power plant issue at your convenience. Thank you. Governor.”

Maratita, Rep. Ray Yumul (IR-Saipan), and the full Senate filed a taxpayers’ lawsuit against the governor, SDLLC, and others over the $190.8 million PPA. The court issued preliminary injunctions.

When Maratita found out last week that Ayuyu and two other senators met with SDLLC, she filed a motion for order to show cause.

Maratita also filed a complaint against Ayuyu for allegedly making death threats against her though a phone call to her lawyer Quichocho. Ayuyu said he did not threaten to kill Maratita. The camps, however, are trying to mend their fences as of last week.

Moreover, on Friday, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona did not grant a request from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to revoke Ayuyu’s pre-trial release.

Manglona said the federal government failed to show why Ayuyu’s pre-trial release should be revoked. But the judge reminded the senator that he is under court jurisdiction and must follow the terms and conditions of his pre-trial release.

The Rota senator was earlier indicted for conspiracy to smuggle federally protected fruit bats from Rota to Saipan. Ayuyu will also be the incoming Senate floor leader when the 18th Legislature is sworn into office in January.

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