Inos allays worries over Casino Commission’s three appointees

Inos also plans meeting with CHC board, CEO Muna

Gov. Eloy S. Inos has allayed the concerns raised by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, saying his retiree-appointees to the Commonwealth Casino Commission could choose between receiving their pension or their commission compensation. He also reminded that retirees are allowed under the law to double dip, but only for 60 days in a year.

Some SNILD members raised concerns about possible conflict of interest and double dipping involving the appointees to the Casino Commission: former senator Maria Frica T. Pangelinan, businessman David C. Sablan, and former Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Alvaro A. Santos.

Under the Saipan casino law, Casino Commission members will be compensated $40,000 on the first year, and then $20 an hour for official meetings in succeeding years. The governor said the retiree appointees have the option to continue to receive their pension or get their commission compensation.

“They can’t receive both,” Inos said. “It’s not a new thing.”

Double-dipping happens when a retiree returns to government service and draws both a salary and a pension.

The governor also responded to concerns that casino commissioners would be in direct conflict of interest for serving on a board that regulates an industry that will fund retirees’ deferred 25 percent pension and other retirement-related matters.

“They’re splitting hairs. I’m a retiree. I work for the CNMI government. I try to work my best to collect revenues. Is that conflict?” he asked.

He hopes that Saipan lawmakers’ concerns, which he said are understandable but are allowed by law, would not derail the confirmation of the appointees.

The delegation, chaired by Rep. Ray Tebuteb (Ind-Saipan), has sought clarification from the Retirement Settlement Trust’s trustee, attorney Joyce C.H. Tang of Civille and Tang PLLC, as to the benefit status of Settlement Fund members who are also members of CNMI boards or commissions.

The 21-member SNILD is tasked to either confirm or reject the governor’s appointees to the Casino Commission. Tinian and Rota legislative delegations are also tasked to do the same when it comes to their respective mayors’ nominees.

Inos also said the Lottery Commission’s use of portions of the $2 million total nonrefundable application fee to hire U.S.-based consultants to investigate the two casino applicants’ background, capability, business plan, and then make recommendations, are authorized under Public Laws 18-38 and 18-43.

The casino applicants are Best Sunshine International Ltd. and Marianas Stars Entertainment Inc. The winning applicant would be granted a license to exclusively develop a minimum $2 billion integrated casino resort on Saipan.

“They have to look at the law. What’s the $1 million for? It’s to do investigations. At what point do you investigate? [During review by Lottery Commission.] So that answers the question. Although the Lottery Commission members do not get paid for performing commission work, they can commission investigation because when you look at the casino legislation, the $1 million is to do investigation and things like that,” he said.

The Lottery Commission decides whether to grant an exclusive Saipan casino license and to whom, by June 19. The Casino Commission, meanwhile, regulates the industry.

“There may be some issues still but I know because that was the intent—that the Lottery Commission would be the one to do the investigation [through consultants] up to the point where after they’re satisfied with the results, they will issue a license, then from that point on, it’s the Gaming Commission members that will carry on. That was the intent,” the governor added.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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