Dr. Ada drops case at instruction of PSS board
Acting on the instruction of the Board of Education, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada voluntarily dropped yesterday the lawsuit that he and the Public School System filed against Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig that had sought to secure more funds for PSS.
Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho granted Ada’s motion to dismiss the case without prejudice. That means PSS and Ada may re-file the case in the future.
Ada and PSS, through counsel Tiberius Mocanu, informed the court that both Torres and Atalig had agreed to the dismissal but the Settlement Fund had objected to it, believing that the case should be dismissed with prejudice. That would have meant that Ada and PSS could no longer re-file the case.
Mocanu said the Settlement Fund’s lawyer emailed the parties in the case yesterday, stating that it supports a dismissal but requests that the claims against the Fund in this lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice to avoid incurring additional expenses of defending the same claims, should PSS re-file these claims in the future. The claims against the Fund include relating to the Fund’s appropriations for fiscal year 2020 and prior fiscal years.
Last Thursday, Mocanu informed the parties in an email that the Board of Education voted last week to direct Ada to drop the lawsuit, which sought to secure for PSS an annual budget of not less than 25% of the Commonwealth’s general revenue.
Mocanu said that Ada then instructed him to move to dismiss the case.
Camacho noted that the lawyer for the Settlement Fund did not sign the motion for voluntary dismissal and that only the lawyers for PSS and the Office of the Attorney General did so. Since the Settlement Fund objects to the dismissal without prejudice, the Fund shall therefore file a written opposition on or before Nov. 22, 2020, Camacho said.
Camacho said the parties should provide legal authority for their position and, if necessary, be prepared to call witness(es) to support any factual allegations.
The hearing for PSS’ motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice will happen on Dec. 15, 2020, at 1:30pm.
According to the PSS lawsuit, it claimed that Public Law 21-08, which established the Commonwealth government’s budget for fiscal year 2020, appropriated $37,718,904 to PSS, which is approximately 16% of the budget. PSS says the CNMI Constitution guarantees PSS a budget of 25%, so Torres is violating the NMI Constitution in carrying out payments and collections under P.L. 21-08.
PSS and Ada also alleged that Atalig is in violation of the NMI Constitution because every allotment and disbursement made pursuant to P.L. 21-08 is unconstitutional.
The court allowed Settlement Fund to intervene in the lawsuit.