‘PSS is not after the money of Settlement Fund’


The Public School System wants to stress that it does not want the NMI Settlement Fund’s literal money and its use of the word “unconstitutional” in its lawsuit against Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Finance Secretary David Atalig only means PSS believes that the calculation of its constitutional share in the government’s annual budget was in error.

PSS, through counsel Tiberius D. Mocanu, pointed out that the Settlement Fund itself has stated that it has no position on whether the “funds appropriated to it can or should be included in calculating PSS’ 25% share pursuant to Article XV, Section 1(e) of the CNMI Constitution.”

Mocanu made the arguments in PSS’ reply to the NMI Settlement Fund’s opposition to PSS’ motion for summary judgment.

He said the Settlement Fund characterizes the “concessions” it made with the Fund as a change in PSS’ position but, in reality, they are simply “changes in syntax made necessary by the Settlement Fund’s dogmatic misunderstanding of this case.”

The lawyer noted that PSS’ draft first amended complaint was presented to the Settlement Fund, which was given full right to edit it as it saw fit. Mocanu said that PSS adopted all of the edits and comments made by the Settlement Fund because PSS believed that if the complaint was edited to the Settlement Fund’s satisfaction, it would no longer have an interest in this case and would withdraw. Mocanu said PSS had no interest in amending its complaint if the Settlement Fund remained in the case.

He said the whole discussion at the hearing on the Settlement Fund’s motion to intervene revolved around the Settlement Fund’s reading of the complaint triggering an interest that it needed to protect by intervening.

Thus, he said, a reasonable solution would be to amend the syntax of the complaint so that the interest the Settlement Fund imputed on the complaint was no longer there.

Mocanu said the Settlement Fund literally edited itself out of an interest in this case but then refused to withdraw.

He said that, according to the Settlement Fund, the Settlement Fund Appropriation Laws are constitutional and valid because they fund payments that are obligations imposed by the CNMI Constitution and the NMI District Court’s judgment confirming the settlement agreement in Betty Johnson’s class action.

Mocanu said PSS does not argue that the Legislature may not make these appropriations or earmarks. He said PSS only argues that the revenue contained therein is special revenue and thus should be included in the calculation of the amount available for appropriation and subject to PSS’ constitutional share.

PSS and Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada are suing Torres and Atalig to press their argument that PSS should have a guaranteed annual budget of not less than 25% of the Commonwealth’s general revenue.

Torres and Atalig, through the Office of the Attorney General, argue that the governor’s actions are allowed by his emergency powers. (Ferdie de la Torre)

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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