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Governor asks BOE to drop lawsuit so government can pay retirees’ 25%

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Tuesday evening asked three members of the Board of Education to drop the lawsuit they authorized so the government can continue paying 25% of the retirees’ benefits.


In a seven-minute video posted on his Facebook page, the governor said BOE members Phillip Mendiola-Long, Marylou Ada and Andrew Orsini want the court to enforce the CNMI Supreme Court’s slip opinion which stated that 25% of the government’s total revenue — including the funds earmarked for the retirees — should go to the Public School System.


The governor said he “begged” the three BOE members not to file an injunction. “We’re experiencing Covid-19 and our tourist numbers are going down,” he added. He said he has always “worked well” with BOE Chairwoman Janice Tenorio, Vice Chairman Herman Atalig and Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada. “We continue to give the appropriated amount to PSS. We were never short and we make sure that we take care of what the Legislature has appropriated for PSS.”


Torres said he met with PSS officials, the BOE members, their legal counsel, the attorney general, lawmakers and their legal counsel. “We all agreed that whatever [the] actual collections were, I would continue to give PSS their 25%/ But a week later, the three board members — Philip Mendiola-Long, Marylou Ada and Andrew Orsini — decided to go ahead and file an injunction [despite] numerous begging and pleading to please not file the injunction because it will definitely jeopardize our retirees’ 25%. We have agreed to address the court’s opinion for FY 2021, but they [the three BOE members] decided to go ahead and file the injunction.”

Torres noted that 25% of the $43 million that the government has to pay the Settlement Fund each year amounts to $ 10.7 million. He added that the government likewise pays $14 million a year for the retirees’ 25%. BOE members Mendiola-Long, Ada and Orsini also want to tap 25% of that amount for PSS or roughly $3 million. The three board members want a total of $14 million originally earmarked for the retirees to go to PSS instead.


“I’m here again pleading to the three board members: if they drop the injunction, I will be able to pay our retirees their 25% for the remainder of the year as well as next year,” the governor said.

“They can blame me, they can blame anything they want, but I have never once cut the retirees’ pension, and in fact have given them a couple of bonuses. I have never [reduced funds] transferred to PSS that was based on what the Legislature has appropriated…. I’ve always been a supporter of PSS, teachers, counselors, principals, bus drivers. And that’s why I have never [cut]…what was appropriated by the Legislature. Even when the deficit was up I still [did not cut] PSS’ [budget.]”

The governor then thanked the BOE chairwoman, vice chairman and education commissioner “for protecting both PSS and retirees.”


He added, “I have always worked with you. And I’m saddened that the three board members took this decision despite your pleadings. I apologize and I thank you for supporting the PSS family and understanding what it takes to pay our retirees.”

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