‘Non-PSS PD donations is past practice; BOE members need not pay back funds’

Posted on Mar 27 2023


The donation of unused Professional Development funds to groups outside of the CNMI Public School System is past practice and those who have done so without prior knowledge do not need to pay back the funds.

That’s according to interim Federal Programs officer Jacqueline Che in an interview during a break of the BOE’s regular board meeting last Thursday. “In the past, if they had any unspent money, they were given leeway to do with it what they wanted. What they’ve done with unspent money is that they would donate to [non-government organizations], nonprofit organizations that serve our students or have an educational purpose. So that has been past practice,” she said. 

The issue arose after an unofficial “white paper” from an anonymous source, the origin of which could not be independently verified, disclosed that some BOE members may have violated federal rules for donating unspent funds from their federally-funded PD accounts to non-PSS organizations.

When asked if board members who donated prior to the knowledge that funds were not allowed to be donated outside PSS have to pay back the funds, she said no. “They did that, not knowing that it was not permissible. And I think there’s a big difference between not knowing and doing it, and also knowing that it’s not permissible but still wanting to do it. It’s two different things.”

So there are “no requests for funding to be returned because these were money that was given to an NGO that was servicing our students and focused on education in some way indirectly,” she said.

Che, who joined PSS as its interim Federal Programs officer last July 2022, said she had had looked into the matter and found out that board members are actually not allowed to be donating the funds outside of PSS. She informed the board of it last September 2022.

She said it might have some flexibility because they had donated to educational NGOs servicing students but, “if you’re reading it line by line—the actual black and white—no donations are allowed outside of the district, so I’ll leave it at that.”

The anonymous document had claimed that BOE chair Gregory P. Borja and BOE secretary/treasurer Maisee B. Tenorio had donated their unspent PD funds to non-PSS organizations. When asked about it, both said that, at the time of their donation, it was permissible to donate their unspent PD funds and that they did so for good causes.

Tenorio donated $3,000 to the Know Your Worth competition, which is part of the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Coalition’s Teen Dating Violence Month campaign, which seeks to combat teen dating violence through an art, essay, and spoken word competitions.

Borja donated to the Interact clubs of Saipan, which are Rotary-sponsored clubs of high school students, and the Rotary Club of Saipan $12,000 last August 2022, before they were told that donating outside of PSS was impermissible.

Leigh Gases
Leigh Gases is the youngest reporter of Saipan Tribune and primarily covers community related news, but she also handles the utilities, education, municipal, and veterans beats. Contact Leigh at leigh_gases@saipantribune.com.

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