IN TAXPAYER’S LAWSUIT OVER F $400K APPROPRIATION FOR M/V LUTA

DelRosario questions OAG serving as counsel for Hocog and Larson

Former Department of Public Lands secretary John DelRosario is questioning the Office of the Attorney General for serving as counsel for Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog and Department of Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson in his lawsuit against them over the transfer of $400,000 in government funds to Luta Mermaid LLC, that owns cargo ship M/V Luta.

DelRosario, through counsel Jennifer Dockter, moves the Superior Court to disqualify OAG as counsel for Hocog and Larson, arguing that such representation poses an impermissible conflict of interest, violates the duties of OAG, and taints the fairness of the proceedings.

Dockter said as the attorney for Hocog, the OAG must defend against allegations that their client, Hocog, breached the Government’s Ethics Act.

However, the lawyer said, as attorney for Larson, the OAG has admitted facts to establish that Hocog breached the Government’s Ethics Act.

Dockter said as attorney for the Commonwealth, the OAG must defend the laws and bring legal action for violations of Government Ethics Act.

However, the lawyer said, as attorney for Hocog, the OAG is defending against violations of the law that they are constitutionally mandated to uphold.

She asserted that OAG cannot represent both Hocog and Larson and fulfill their duties to the people of the CNMI.

“The positions are impossibly oppositional,” Dockter pointed out.

Dockter said this quagmire created by OAG’s attempted representation of both Hocog and Larson cannot be avoided and such OAG’s representation violates their duties of professional conduct and violates their duties to the people of the Commonwealth.

Dockter said it is a level of misconduct that taints the fairness of these proceedings and thus, disqualification of OAG is necessary.

She said OAG’s representation of both Hocog and Larson creates a concurrent conflict of interest because Larson admits facts adverse to Hocog; Larson implicated the late governor Eloy S. Inos and former client of OAG; and the AG owes a duty to the Commonwealth to prosecute violations of the law.

Dockter noted that in her answer to DelRosario’s lawsuit, Larson, through OAG, makes certain admissions adverse to Hocog.

The lawyer said Larson admits that Hocog “offered” and voted on Rota Legislative Delegation Resolution 19-3, which authorized payment of public funds to Luta Mermaid LLC.

Dockter said Larson admits that the shareholders of Luta Mermaid LLC are relatives of Hocog as defined by the Government Ethics Act.

As such, Dockter said, Larson has admitted that Hocog offered and voted upon a resolution that gave $400,000 to his relatives.

Dockter said Larson admits that, “Hocog voted on Resolution 19-3 which gave $400,000 to his relatives’ corporation.”

The lawyer said Larson has openly admitted to facts, which sufficiently and plainly establish that Hocog violated the Government Ethics Act.

Dockter said the AG is responsible for providing legal advice and representing the governor, including the late governor Inos during his tenure.

She noted that Larson as part of her apparent defense in this matter states that she transferred funds to Lt. Gov. Hocog’s family business “pursuant to direct order” of then-governor Inos.

The AG, Dockter said, has asserted a defense that directly blames and implicates their former client.

Dockter said if the Public Auditor investigates the acts alleged in this matter, the Public Auditor is legally required to send its report of findings to the governor—who is also represented by the AG.

Lt. Gov. Hocog has claimed that he is entitled to legislative immunity and therefore the court should dismiss DelRosario’s lawsuit.

DelRosario disagrees. Dockter said Hocog is not protected by legislative immunity for the acts he undertook without authority and which violated the law, his ethical obligations, and his duty to Commonwealth taxpayers.

DelRosario filed last May a taxpayer’s lawsuit against Hocog and Larson over the alleged adoption of a Rota Legislative Delegation resolution without public notice that purportedly authorized payment of $400,000 to Luta Mermaid LLC, a private company owned by Hocog’s relatives.

DelRosario is suing Hocog and Larson for breach of fiduciary duties, and expenditure of public funds for an improper purpose. In addition, Hocog is sued for violation of the Open Government Act.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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