"Principled Leadership and Forty years of Commitment to the People of the CNMI"
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Saving the Retirees
For decades, politically motivated members of the Commonwealth Legisture padded the government employee retirement system with unfunded benefits, ultimately resulting in an unfunded liability for the NMIRF of nearly a billion dollars. Early in the history of the Commonwealth, the CNMI government opted out of the U.S. Social Security system for CNMI government employees, meaning that if the Retirement Fund failed, there would be no retirement security for current and former CNMI Government employees, other than what they might accrue from private sector employment.
By 2009, it was clear that the NMIRF was in deep trouble. Without a significant cash infusion, it was clear that the Fund would no longer be able to pay benefits in a matter of years. The elected office-holders at the time embarked on a program to dismantle the retirement system and avoid the government's obligations to the Retirement Fund, thus allowing the cash-strapped CNMI Government to prioritize current spending over its future obligations to the retirees.
Realizing that any action in Commonwealth courts to hold the CNMI Government to account financially would be futile and a waste of resources, a couple of courageous retirees brought a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. The CNMI Government fought tooth and nail, and the case failed to progress. More than three years later, the lawsuit was in danger of being dismissed for lack of local counsel. It was then, in early 2012, that si Steve agreed to take on that responsibility. He was the only attorney in the CNMI with the courage and independence to do so.
The next year saw intensive litigation that forced the CNMI Government into settlement talks in mid-2013. In September of 2013, a class action settlement in that case, now known as Johnson v. Inos or Johnson v. CNMI was approved. That settement assured retirees of a minimum of 75% of their earned benefits for life and is backed by a $779 million fall-back judgment against the CNMI Government. As confirmed by lead counsel on the case, former State of Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster, si Steve was instrumental in the achievement of this landmark settlement on behalf of CNMI retirees. Absent this settlement, the Retirement Fund would have run out of money during the first part of this year, and monthly benefits paid would now be zero.
The Government has the same duty as private individuals to pay its obligations, nothwitstanding court decisions that effectively make enforcement of theat duty impossible. Performance based budgeting. Unified budget. "Finding" money. Reprograming.
Is si Steve disbarred? Is the question even relevant to whether he should or not be a CNMI Senator? Did he do something bad that would warrant disbarment like Dan Aguilar, Rey Yana, Antonio Atalig, and Ramon Quichocho? Contrary to the desires of his detractors, the answers to these questions give strong reason to support si Steve for Senate.