A man who is suing the CNMI Department of Labor for his Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims is now asking the court to dismiss his suit on the condition that DOL issues his benefits.
During a status conference on Tuesday, John Angello asked the court to conditionally dismiss his lawsuit because DOL has made good faith efforts to settle and pay his benefits.
However, Angello asks the court to make the dismissal conditional since his payment has been subjected to another program delay.
Angello noted that since filing his suit, DOL has promised, through email, that a full payment of $7,833 for him is being manually processed as of Jan. 5.
“[I] trust the defendant, although [I] wish to first verify that the direct bank deposit is received within the promised 5-10 government working days,” he said.
However, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, through counsel Lillian Tenorio, has filed her own motion to completely dismiss the suit because the court lacks jurisdiction to hear Angello’s claims and because he fails to state a claim in his suit.
“The court lacks jurisdiction to hear Angello’s claims because [he] failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing his complaint and because his claims exceed the jurisdiction amount for small claims. Further, [Angello’s] claims for relief have no legal basis upon which relief may be granted,” Tenorio stated.
Tenorio said that, although styled as an original small claims action, a review of the allegations in the complaint bare that Angello’s claims arise from his application for PUA benefits funded by federal funds administered by DOL.
Yet the complaint fails to allege that Angello exhausted his administrative remedies at DOL by lodging an appeal administratively within DOL, notwithstanding notice provided to applicants concerning the right to appeal.
In addition, Tenorio said, the exhibits entered by Angello in his complaint reveal that DOL had not completed processing his benefits payments, which is why final agency adjudication of his eligibility to receive benefits did not occur when he filed his complaint.
“By not exhausting his administrative remedies with DOL, plaintiff has prematurely raised the issue of his PUA benefits with this court,” Tenorio said.
Additionally, Tenorio said, because Angello is asking the court for relief for payment of about $13,455, it exceeds the small claim jurisdiction amount of $5,000, which warrants dismissal of the suit.