NMC regents split over creation of new foundation

Posted on Feb 16 2012

Members of the Board of Regents are split over a proposal to create a new foundation that will help the Northern Marianas College but will be separate from the board’s jurisdiction.

During the continuation of the board’s regular meeting yesterday, board chair Juan T. Lizama expressed his full support for the idea and encouraged his colleagues to develop a separate foundation whose task is to raise funds for NMC.

That same function is currently being done by the NMC Foundation, which is under the board’s jurisdiction.

According to Lizama, the NMC Foundation was created primarily to handle the endowment fund received by the college from a land grant amounting to $3 million. Because this was created pursuant to law, Lizama said the existing foundation has “limited” activity.

Among the benefits of having an additional foundation, Lizama said, is that it will give the body a lot of “flexibility and autonomy” but with the sole purpose of raising money for the college. He cited Guam as an example of an institution that has had success in having a separate foundation from the college.

“There’s no hidden agenda in this [proposal],” he added.

The proposal was opposed by fellow regents Elaine Orilla, William Torres, and Andrew Orsini, who all questioned the necessity of creating a second foundation for the college. They pointed out that the NMC Foundation has been doing a great job in raising funds for the college.

“We have an existing foundation and what I am hearing today is you want to create another new foundation for NMC so the original foundation will just become custodian of the endowment fund? But I thought the original foundation also has another mission, which is to fundraise for NMC,” said Orilla yesterday.

NMC president Sharon Y. Hart explained that the NMC Foundation—as custodian of the land grant for the college—is under the “oversight” of the government or the federal agency.

“Yes, I understand madam president that there is an oversight. But it’s only if there are some fraud and misspending. I just don’t see [the need of] having another foundation,” said Orilla.

Orsini emphasized the need to present to the regents an in-depth analysis of the implications of having another foundation that will completely be out of the board’s jurisdiction.

Torres, who admitted to not having a lot of knowledge about the current status of the NMC Foundation, expressed dismay that financial updates have not been provided as requested since he came onboard. He said he was also shocked by the decision of former NMC Foundation president Ben Babauta to resign. Torres asked Lizama to refer the issue to the newly revived finance and budget committee for further review and evaluation.

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