Minority bloc files OGA request for CBF records
The House of Representatives minority bloc has filed yet another Open Government Act request to the Office of the Governor, this time for records on the Community Benefit Fund that the casino operator is required by law to finance.
In a letter dated Feb. 28, 2020, addressed to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, the minority bloc requested access to inspect and/or copy all records related to the CBF obligations of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC that are in the possession, custody, or control of the Office of the Governor.
The minority also wants records on IPI’s compliance with Section 16 of the Casino License Agreement.
IPI was required by the casino license agreement to pay out $20 million in 2018 and another $20 million on or before Oct 1, 2019, for programs in health care, education, scholarships, infrastructure, or employee retirement benefits, said minority member Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) in an interview.
IPI, according to the CLA, must distribute monies from the CBF in consultation with the Office of the Governor to support programs such as education, scholarships, health care, employee retirement benefits, and infrastructure.
“Given the economic crisis we face, the projected revenue shortfall of more than $40 million this fiscal year, and the disruptions to essential public services that we expect, it should be an urgent priority of this administration to collect on that $37 million, not to mention the many millions in taxes still owed by IPI,” Sablan said. “The audited financial statement as of Dec. 31, 2018, indicates IPI has only paid out $3 million, and we want to know who has benefited from these funds, and what actions the governor has taken to enforce this part of the license agreement.”
Sablan also said that neither the Commonwealth Lottery Commission nor the Commonwealth Casino Commission seem willing or able to speak to the enforcement issue, and that both have pointed to the authority of the governor to compel IPI to comply with this contractual obligation.
The minority bloc expects the documents to be ready for review on or before the expiration of the 10-day response period required by OGA.
“If the administration cannot or will not take action to hold IPI accountable to the license or the tax laws of the Commonwealth, we need to know that, and we need to know why,” Sablan said.