NMC denies $24K in underpayment


The Northern Marianas College has denied the report of Settlement Fund trustee Joyce Tang that it underpaid the Settlement Fund in the amount of $24,373.41.
NMC counsel Mark A. Scoggins asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI last week to rescind any orders directing NMC to pay the amount allegedly owed the Settlement Fund.

Scoggins said NMC is not in arrears in payment to the Settlement Fund. He pointed out that NMC continues to meet its obligations to the Fund in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement in Betty Johnson’s class action.

The lawyer cited Tang’s Feb. 24, 2014, report and response of the Settlement Trustee that contains information about “underpayments” allegedly owed by NMC and other agencies.

In that report, Tang disclosed that as of pay period ending Jan. 25, 2014, underpayment to the Settlement Fund amounts to $178,027. Tang said the amount is composed of underpayments from autonomous agencies: NMC, $24,373.41; Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., $43,468.84; Public School System-local, $104,457.33; PSS-federal, $103.14.

Scoggins said Tang’s report alleges that “since the filing of the Trustee’s Report, the Settlement Fund and government have worked to resolve this issue.”

Scoggins pointed out that NMC was not consulted about the alleged underpayment and NMC was not among the “parties” that agreed that the underpayment existed.

“NMC has fully complied with the Settlement Agreement,” he stressed.

Scoggins cited a provision of the Settlement Agreement that states that “the CNMI autonomous agencies shall make supplemental payments to the Settlement Fund in the amount of the employer contributions for these Settlement Class members at the same contribution rates they were paying as of June 26, 2013.”

Scoggins said NMC has been paying into the Fund at the same rate at which it has been paying for several years.

He said nothing has changed and there has been no underpayment from NMC.

“NMC believes that the same may be true of the Public School System, as the agencies are similarly situated vis-à-vis the fund,” the lawyer added.

Scoggins said if increases to NMC’s contribution rate were contemplated in the negotiations, NMC was never consulted about that possibility.

“It is possible that the underpayment or arrearage is owed by someone, and also possible that this money needs to go into the Fund, but it is not NMC’s responsibility,” he said.

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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