Teno to mediate in SBDC squabble

Posted on Nov 23 1999

Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio will meet separately with the board of the Commonwealth Development Authority and the Northern Marianas College Board of Regents in his effort to quash “infighting” over the local Small Business Development Center.

He said there are some concerns raised about the funding issue which he would be discussing with officials to shed light on the controversy surrounding the transfer of NMC-SBDC to CDA.

“This kind of thing should be resolved internally… Just sit down and try to resolve the issue. They don’t have to fight. We don’t need infighting between the agencies,” Mr. Tenorio told reporters in an interview yesterday.

He said he wants the approximately $70,000 in federal funds granted to the center, plus the local matching money, to be made available to those who need the assistance.

SBDC has been in the forefront of economic activities since its inception in 1989 at the college. The network encompasses the Business Incubator, the Graduate Internship Program, the Business Assistance Services Program and the Education and Training Program.

But the program has come under close scrutiny in recent weeks following the plan to close down the NMC operations, which college officials and some lawmakers have blamed on its former director.

Jack Peters, who headed the center from 1994 until his departure last April, sought its transfer to CDA to try to keep federal funding for SBDC after the funds were not allegedly handled properly.

Tenorio, however, declined comment on the allegations, saying “it’s not for me to say that because I think the Legislature is now looking into it.”

Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes, Rep. Oscar M. Babauta and NMC Board Chair Ramon A. Villagomez have attacked the transfer as tainted with “personal vendetta” since Mr. Peters failed to bag a $10,000 contract with NMC involving a federally-funded economic conference held on Saipan.

The ex-director, now head of the Pacific Islands SBDC Network based at the University of Guam which has jurisdiction over the local program, has denied the charges.

Mr. Babauta last week said he would seek a probe by the U.S. Inspector General into the controversy, claiming that the move has been clouded by ulterior motive which may have prompted removal of the center under NMC’s wings.

Mr. Tenorio had denied prior knowledge of the transfer, although the issue was brought up briefly when he met with Mr. Peters, CDA Board Chairman John S. Tenorio and other officials in his office on Oct. 29.

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.