GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres has vetoed Senate Local Bill 22-4, which proposes to earmark the $400,000 that Luta Mermaid LLC owes the CNMI government for Rota medical referral patients and scholarships.
Authored by Sen. Paul A. Manglona, S.L.B. 22-4 stated that the CNMI government and Luta Mermaid have agreed on a repayment plan for the $400,000 loan that Rota Legislative Resolution 19-3 authorized the Department of Finance to provide to Luta Mermaid to finance its MV Luta’s fuel, lubrication and maiden voyage costs from Louisiana.
However, in his veto message, the governor said that according to the Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General, although the defendants in Luta Mermaid litigation have agreed to pay the settlement amount, “no payment towards the stipulated judgment has been made to the Commonwealth.”
“The Attorney General's Office has also informed my office that an order to show cause motion will be filed shortly to enforce the settlement terms,” the governor told Rota Legislative Delegation co-chairs, Rep. Donald Manglona and Sen. Teresita Santos.
"Because this funding is not readily available and there is no additional information offered by the delegation with regard to when such payments will be made, I find the earmarking of these funds to be irresponsible at this time. I strongly encourage the delegation to earmark and appropriate these funds for Rota Interisland Medical Referral patients, medical subsistence program and the Rota Municipal scholarship as soon as they become available,” the governor added.
It was then-Senate President Victor B. Hocog who authored R.L.D. 19-3, authorizing then-Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson to make “an advance payment” to Luta Mermaid for the fuel, lubrication, and costs necessary for the maiden voyage of MV Luta from Louisiana to Rota, “and to provide for the personnel and operational costs of the Office of the Mayor of Rota.”
In February 2017, the AG’s office sued Luta Mermaid LLC, which owned MV Luta, for receiving $400,000 in public funds without authorization, wrongful retention of public funds, unjust enrichment and using public funds for personal use.
In July 2019, the AG’s office announced that a resolution had been reached in the government’s lawsuit against Luta Mermaid.
According to the consent judgment, Luta Mermaid would repay the government $400,000 in five years.