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Sunday, April 20, 2014

SDLLC counsel: Maratita, Yumul no desire to pursue taxpayer’s suit

Rep. Janet U. Maratita and Sen. Ray A. Yumul no longer want to pursue their taxpayers’ lawsuit against the power purchase agreement with Saipan Development LLC since the political goal of removing Benigno R. Fitial as CNMI governor had already been accomplished, according to SDLLC lawyer William Fitzgerald.

In SDLLC’s opposition to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s motion to dismiss SDLLC’s lawsuit, Fitzgerald pointed out that an examination of the docket in the taxpayers’ lawsuit will show that, for almost a year, Maratita and Yumul have done nothing except to file a joinder to CUC’s motion for summary judgment on July 26, 2013.

“It is assumed this was done at CUC’s request since the basis for CUC’s summary judgment request that the contract was illegal had not been raised by CUC as a defense,” the lawyer said.

Maratita, through counsel Ramon K. Quichocho, filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court in August 2012; Yumul joined as co-plaintiff. The lawsuit named as defendants Fitial, CUC, SDLLC, and others, over the allegedly illegal $190.8 million power purchase agreement that CUC, through the former governor, signed with the Delaware-based SDLLC. Maratita and Yumul sought to have the 25-year PPA declared “unconstitutional, illegal, unconscionable, and unjust, and therefore, cancelled.”

Fitial resigned and left the CNMI in the latter part of 2013 and has not returned to face charges of misconduct filed against him by the Office of the Public Auditor.

Fitzgerald said there were hearings regarding an injunction in the taxpayers’ lawsuit, but no depositions were ever taken and no discovery was submitted.

“In fact, no scheduling order, pursuant to Rule 16 of the Commonwealth Rules of Civil Procedure, has ever been filed,” he noted.

SDLLC in turn, is suing CUC in federal court over the voided PPA.

CUC has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. CUC counsel Deborah Fisher argued that even if Fitial signed the PPA with SDLLC as then governor, he was still required to obey CNMI procurement rules.

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