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CUC board seeks lawsuit of ex-employees dismissed

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The lawsuit filed by two former Commonwealth Utilities Corp. employees against CUC board members is just a veiled attempt to have most board members removed, according to CUC lawyer James S. Sirok.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Sirok described former public information officer Brad Ruszala and former CUC chief financial officer Matthew Yaquinto as disgruntled former employees and their lawsuit is nothing more than a veiled attempt to obtain a “stepping stone” for a request to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to remove all board members except for David J. Sablan Jr.

Sirok said the complaint seeks to persuade the Superior Court to declare that each of the defendants have violated their fiduciary duties as members of the CUC board of directors.

“They have failed to name as a defendant one board member who has been outspoken and critical of CUC, Mr. Sablan,” said Sirok.

Ruszala and Yaquinto sued all CUC board members, except Sablan, for allegedly holding closed-door meetings under the guise of “executive sessions” and using their positions to obtain private financial gain for themselves and their relatives.

Ruszala and Yaquinto, through counsel George Lloyd Hasselback, are suing CUC board chair Adelina C. Roberto and board members Eric C. San Nicolas, Joseph T. Torres, Ignacio L. Perez, and Albert A. Taitano for violations of the Open Government Act, Government Ethics Code, and U.S. District for the NMI stipulated order.

Ruszala and Yaquinto asked the court to declare the defendants in violation of their fiduciary duties for their “continued failure” to comply with the OGA requirements.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare that all ordinances, resolutions, rules, regulations, and directives created by the CUC board in violation of OGA be declared null and void.

In CUC board’s motion to dismiss filed on Wednesday, Sirok said most of the allegations gainst the board members are articulated in a “mixing of apples and oranges” style.

He said the allegations are vague and general “conclusory” statements that invite a “fishing expedition” rather than articulating specifically described instances of misconduct that defendants can reasonably be required to respond to.

Sirok said the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to consider certain allegations and causes of action set forth in the complaint.

He said plaintiffs have failed to join as parties other entities and persons needed for just adjudication based on the allegations and causes of action alleged in the complaint.

The lawyer moved the court to issue an order requiring the plaintiffs to provide more definitive statements in their allegations so that defendants can appropriately respond to their claims.

Hasselback stated in the complaint that in January 2016, the CUC board held a closed-door meeting under the guise of an “executive session” where discussions were held pertaining to the elimination of the position of public information officer that should have been held in a public session.

Hasselback said that on May 4, 2015, the CUC board held a closed-door meeting under the guise of an “executive session” where discussions were held pertaining to petitions for rate-increases that should have been held in public session.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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