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Sources say CUC refuses to honor John Riegel’s contract

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The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. board is refusing to honor amendments made to chief engineer John Riegel’s contract last year purportedly over their disapproval over clauses on pay, a termination clause, and its contract period terms, multiple sources told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

Sources said CUC passed a motion last Friday to not honor the contract and that a memorandum was sent to Riegel on Monday essentially saying so.

Sources said the memo essentially said that if Riegel did not re-negotiate his contract by today, Wednesday, his old contract would expire.

However, request for comment to board chair Adelina Roberto to verify or comment on these reports has not been responded to as of press time.

CUC counsel Jim Sirok said he had no comment and CUC staff said acting executive director Gary Camacho was off-island.

Last July 2015, the board and Riegel, an acting executive director at the time after the board let go of former executive director Alan Fletcher, agreed to extend his contract to July 2016. His former contract expires in July 2016.

Among others, the amendments increased Riegel’s annual salary, and prevented the board from terminating him for any reason except for unlawful conduct, among others, sources said.

Riegel is reportedly on approved annual leave and will return later this month.

It has not been confirmed yet if he has agreed to the board’s demands or will stand by the validity of his contract, which was signed by Roberto, himself, Sirok, and former chief financial officer Matt Yaquinto, who was fired without cause last May and who had occupied a court-stipulated order position.

When sought for comment, Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-MP) said members of the House minority bloc are considering pushing for an oversight hearing on the issue.

“At this point, with all these firing that has happened, an oversight is something we should consider. The fact that the stipulated orders are still not properly addressed, there are some questions that need to be answered,” he said.

“We are talking about highly qualified individuals who have the experience and the expertise for these positions and these jobs are very hard to find, locally and even nationally.

“We just lost Matt Yaquinto and there is nobody that can replace him right now and the same will go for John Riegel, if he is also fired. These are cases without cause. They’re excuse is that they cannot discuss employee personnel information but the bottom line is they admit that these are without cause, these are employees that didn’t get their fair share, they didn’t see this, they were blindsided, essentially fired or forced to resign.”

“We are possibly facing federal receivership and that is concern. We need to make the right decision and have the qualified individuals running the utility,” he added.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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