The chairman of the Northern Marianas College Board of Regents admitted to Saipan Tribune that the institution's accreditation were among the major factors considered by the board when it decided to settle its lawsuit against former president Dr. Carmen Fernandez.
Board chair Juan T. Lizama disclosed that Michael Dotts, who represented the board in court, handled the case well given all the factors that were involved in the litigation.
“When the board made the difficult decision to settle this lawsuit, we considered many things, including the prevention of a long and drawn out lawsuit and its impact on college resources that could be used for other programs and services that advance student learning,” said Lizama.
The board settled the case with Fernandez in September 2012 due to increasing legal costs. Saipan Tribune learned that NMC had spent over $180,000 in attorneys' fees in addition to the over $130,000 in damages it paid Fernandez, who earlier demanded payment for the balance of her four-year contract with the board, which is worth about $300,000.
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 at eight hours per pay period, and sick leave at four hours per pay period.
Board members were sued by Fernandez for wrongful termination of her contract as president of NMC in 2010. When asked whether the decision to settle the lawsuit was a recommendation from the accreditation commission, Lizama claimed that it was not, but which the board considered.
“Certainly not, although the college's accreditation was also a part of this consideration to settle. But to be clear, the ACCJC (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges) was not part of the decision to settle nor was it involved in the decision making process,” said the chairman.
According to Lizama, the ACCJC's prime concern is that the college is meeting accreditation standards and eligibility requirements and that the Board of Regents is working to assure the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of student learning programs and services and the financial stability of the institution.