Senator asks attorney to help Rota get casino money

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SENATOR Paul A. Manglona, the CNMI’s most senior lawmaker and the lone minority member in the Senate, has asked former Senate legal counsel and former Attorney General Pamela Brown Blackburn to help Rota obtain its share of the Commonwealth casino license fee.

Paul Atalig Manglona

Since last year, Manglona, who also chairs the Rota Legislative Delegation, has been asking Finance Secretary David Atalig about the $1.4 million casino license fee that the senator said was due to Rota in fiscal year 2018, but was never appropriated.

On March 2, 2019, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, as acting governor, vetoed House Local Bill 21-7, which appropriated $1.4 million of the annual Commonwealth casino fee for Rota.

On behalf of Manglona, the Law Offices of Pamela Brown Blackburn LLC informed Atalig in a letter that over nearly a year, the Rota delegation tried to resolve “an apparent discrepancy in Finance’s accounting of its FY 2019 casino licensing allocation.”

“Unfortunately, its requests have met with total inaction on your part,” Blackburn told Atalig.

She noted that according to Palacios, H.L.B. 21-7 was vetoed “due to lack of funding.”

But as Manglona pointed out in his Sept. 25, 2019 letter to Finance, “$1,435,968 of the $2 million in casino license fee for Rota, was never appropriated” and should be available for appropriation.

Blackburn said the information about the $1,435,968 account balance for Rota was provided by Finance analyst Ryan Camacho to then-Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson who then relayed it to the delegation.

Blackburn said the amount was verified again by Camacho who met with Senator Manglona, Rep. Donald Manglona, legislative counsel Joe Bermudes, and legislative budget analyst Dave Demapan prior to the passage of the local appropriation bill.

“Most interesting is that you personally confirmed the $1,435,968 license fee balance for Rota in your attachment to your March 18, 2019 letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ivan Blanco,” Blackburn told Atalig. “Your schedule of earmarks and revolving funds identifies funds in the amount of $1,435,968 as available for Rota local appropriation.”

Blackburn said, “All these various confirmations of available funds from the casino licensing fee for FY 2019 makes your failure to meet with the delegation puzzling to say the least.”

She added that the needs of the people of Rota for interisland medical referrals are not being met nor are they diminishing.

“Your inaction and failure to work with the delegation to resolve this matter prior to inflicting even more damage on the people of Rota cannot be tolerated. Therefore, you are hereby notified that you have 20 days to either arrange a meeting or to release these funds for appropriation. Failure to act to meet this demand will result in the delegation pursuing every legal remedy available to it,” Blackburn said.

Variety was unable to get a comment from Finance.

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