The Northern Marianas College Board of Regents' lawsuit against former president Carmen Fernandez finally came to an end after the parties finalized a settlement.
Board counsel Michael Dotts confirmed with the Saipan Tribune that the lawsuit was settled in September 2012.
Dotts disclosed that the board decided to end the litigation mainly due to the increasing legal costs and fees. He declined to say how much was spent by the college in defending the case against Fernandez.
“I can say that settlement is preferable over litigation. Proceeding in court is expensive and this case started in federal court and continued there all the way up almost to trial, and then was moved to the Superior Court, and proceeded there through motions practice, before it finally settled,” Dotts said in an email.
He disclosed that both parties retained expert witnesses and conducted multiple depositions that all added to the costs.
“Given the costs, including the anticipated costs of appeals, and many other factors such as how long it would take to finally resolve this case, the parties were motivated to settle. The settlement amount was much less that what the plaintiff was initially seeking and much more than what the college initially wanted to pay. It was a compromise that took into account many factors,” he added.
Fernandez’s contract with NMC was for a term of four years, from May 7, 2009, through May 6, 2013. She was to receive an annual salary of $80,000, vacation leave of eight hours per pay period, and sick leave of four hours per pay period.
Fernandez sued board members for wrongful termination and breach of contract in 2010. The former president earlier sought damages including payment for the remainder of her four-year contract, approximately $300,000.
Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from board chair Juan T. Lizama but calls were not returned as of press time.
Saipan Tribune learned that NMC spent nearly $200,000 in litigation costs during the years that the case was heard in both local and federal courts.
The board, it was also learned, agreed to settle with Fernandez in the amount of more than $130,000, of which $100,000 shall be paid upon settlement and the remaining will be paid in increments.
Fernandez was fired by the board in April 2010.