Public Lands Secretary Sixto K. Igisomar said the department is keeping in the bank the $1 million it got as settlement payment in the Commonwealth’s claims and cross-claims against Kan Pacific and Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, and will not remit these funds to the Marianas Public Land Trust.
In his July 2, 2021 response to MPLT chair Martin B. Ada’s demand letter, Igisomar instead proposed that a certified question on the matter be submitted to the CNMI Supreme Court.
Igisomar said that, as DPL explained to MPLT in 2016, the attorney general advised that there were arguments both for and against treating the $1-million settlement funds as arising from public lands and whether they should go to MPLT or the general fund.
Unless MPLT and DPL comes to an agreement on the nature of the funds, a certified question should be submitted to the Supreme Court, Igisomar said.
“MPLT and DPL have not reached an agreement regarding these funds,” he added.
Igisomar said the $1-million settlement funds relate to a settlement of the Commonwealth’s claims and cross-claims against Kan Pacific and IPI based on U.S. antitrust laws and the Commonwealth’s unfair business laws, raised in a case in which DPL was a defendant.
Last May, MPLT sent a second demand letter to DPL to remit $5.6 million, including the $1 million in settlement funds, that is allegedly due to MPLT in fiscal year 2019 and warned of an investigation and a lawsuit if DPL fails to remit the money.
MPLT, through counsel Robert T. Torres, stated in that demand letter that DPL continues to withhold these funds unlawfully since the $1 million was the result of a settlement with the Mariana Resort & Spa owner from a public land lease.
During one of the recent Senate hearings on Igisomar’s confirmation as DPL secretary, the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations asked him about the matter, to which he responded that MPLT keeps writing him letters and then posting the matter in the newspapers even before he responds.
“The $1 million is still there. We still have the $1 million in our bank account,” he said. “As of now, it’s still untouched. It’s still there. …I’m still holding it and I’m not abusing it.”