Ex-lawmaker seeks probe on alleged excessive expenditures
Crispin M. Ogo, vice president of a non-profit group Rota Island Specialty Crop Association, or RISCA, has called for an investigation into the allegedly excessive expenditures for travels and car rental incurred by their president, Ivan Mereb.
In his letter to RISCA board of directors dated May 12, 2022, a copy of which was obtained by Saipan Tribune yesterday, Ogo said the RISCA board should create a three-man special commission to investigate the alleged mishandling of RISCA funds.
“If I’m alone on this quest, then so be it. This will make other board of directors liable for the action of president Mereb,” said Ogo, who served two terms, 2004 to 2008, in the House of Representatives representing Rota.
He claims that Mereb’s travels as RISCA president amounted to $12,588, while his car rental allegedly amounted to $14,431, for a total of $26,980.
Mereb denied yesterday that such expenditures are excessive.
Regarding the travel, Mereb said he and many Rota officials went to Saipan, where they met with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to discuss the Rota Workforce Investment Initiative.
About the car rental, Mereb said they rented a pickup truck as RISCA has no vehicle, and that it’s quite expensive to rent a truck on Rota.
Mereb said he is not hiding anything and that he is confident that nothing will come out of the allegations as the expenditures were incurred as part of the RISCA board’s policy.
Mereb said he already wrote the Rota Legislative Delegation in response to Ogo’s accusations.
He believes he has been targeted because he is running for a House seat representing Rota under the Republican Party this Nov. 8 elections.
Ogo is running as an independent for a Senate seat representing Rota.
When asked for more information about his allegations yesterday, Ogo said Mereb is still their president, but during their board meeting last week, the members approved his request for Mereb to step aside as they are now in the process of resolving the matter internally.
Ogo said he, Mereb, and the remainder of the board are on the same page with resolving the expenditure matter.
“There is no infighting. We are trying to work within RISCA’s bylaws,” Ogo said.
He said they are a small community of farmers, fishermen, and artisans working together to make the organization function according to its bylaws.
In his May 12 letter, Ogo said it is clear that Mereb went on a spending spree without the board’s knowledge and violated RISCA’s by-laws.
He alleged that Mereb rented a vehicle for 33 days at $199 per day from Islander Rental Car in the total amount of $5,970.
He also questioned RISCA’s rental of a vehicle for 77 days totaling $8,461. He said furthermore, there was a car rental at $109 per day to sell fish, which resulted in no profit or gain for RISCA.
Ogo did not indicate the name of the car rental company involved in the $8,461. In the letter, however, he mentioned Bepari as another car rental company.
Ogo said none of the board or RISCA members knew about these expenditures for travel and car rental amounting to $26,980.
He said he knows RISCA members will question the expenditure of their $100,000 budget.
The Rota Legislative Delegation appropriated $100,000 for RISCA to benefit the farming, fishing, and artisan community on the island.
Ogo said the Rota Legislative Delegation co-chairs wrote Mereb last Dec. 10, 2021, urging him to submit an expenditure. Prior to the delegation’s letter, Ogo said he has been reminding the president to submit a final report to the RISCA members and the delegation.