The Commonwealth Ports Authority asked the Superior Court yesterday to direct the NMI Retirement Fund to comply with Public Law 17-82 that allows Fund members to withdraw their contributions without separating from the government.
CPA, through counsel Robert T. Torres, said that Public Law 17-82 imposes clear, nondiscretionary duties on the Fund and its administrator to approve and pay out employee funds.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial signed the law on Sept. 11, 2012.
“The trustee [ad litem] is not entitled to pick and choose which laws he elects to obey and which statutes he is free to ignore,” said Torres in CPA's motion for writ of mandamus.
CPA asked the court to direct the Fund, Fund administrator Lillian Pangelinan, and Fund trustee ad litem Joseph Razzano to act on and approve all employee applications to terminate membership in the Fund in accordance with the mandate of P.L. 17-82.
CPA also asked the court to direct the Fund and the CNMI government to provide withdrawing members with a statement of all contributions withdrawn from their salaries, as well as a statement of payments tendered by the employing agency.
CPA also wants the court to order the Fund to halt all further contributions from CPA and other withdrawing employees as required by P.L. 17-82.
The plaintiff also asked the court to direct the CNMI government and the Fund to release the affected employee contributions and return them to withdrawing Fund members, with accrued interest, as required by law.
Torres said that Razzano and Pangelinan have failed to refund the employee contributions of employees who have elected to terminate their membership in the Defined Benefit Plan, in derogation of their responsibilities,
Instead, Torres said, Razzano filed a motion in federal court on Dec. 12, 2012, to delay this process.
Without notice to the government agencies participating in the lawsuit or any active employees impacted by his inaction, Razzano refuses to disburse the contributions of “any employee” electing to terminate their Defined Benefit membership until all agencies have turned over their contributions to the Fund in full, he said.
“As an excuse for the Fund's noncompliance with the statutory mandate-and without regard to its failure to take action to ensure that noncompliant government agencies have turned over the employee contributions that they have collected-the Fund argues that it cannot return any employee contributions since all government agencies have failed to remit all of their employee contributions,” he said.
As a backup excuse, Torres said, the Fund also maintains it lacks the manpower and necessary computer software to calculate how much it must refund.
“CPA has fully complied with its employer contributions and its employees must be entitled to withdraw the contributions that CPA has remitted, with interest, and without restriction,” he said.
The Fund filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in 2006 against Fitial, the CNMI government, and co-defendants over the government's failure to remit required payments to the Fund.
In 2009, Govendo ruled that the government owes the Fund $282 million in damages and that the law suspending government contributions to the Fund is unconstitutional.