CNMI Fund Administrator Richard Villagomez’s Contract Expires

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Fund lacks quorum, authority to appoint or reappoint administrator

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, August 2, 2012) – Richard Villagomez has officially exited the Northern Mariana Islands Retirement Fund (NMIRF) as its administrator following the expiration of his contract last Monday, July 31.

Press secretary Angel Demapan told Saipan Tribune that the administration did not make any appointment or re-appointment to the position because the Executive Branch doesn't have the authority to do so.

Villagomez's tenure at the Fund, he said, could be addressed if the board of trustees earlier prepared a contingency plan for the agency.

"Unfortunately, the NMIRF board, before losing quorum, did not formulate a contingency plan for the Fund administrator's position. Absent a final dismissal from bankruptcy court, the Executive Branch is not able to act on NMIRF matters yet," he told Saipan Tribune.

Demapan said since the Fund administrator's contract had expired, and in the absence of an administrator, the Fund should now be headed, in the interim, by the next ranking official in its organizational structure.

Esther Ada is the Fund's deputy administrator and the next person in charge of the agency's operations.

Saipan Tribune tried to get comments from Villagomez on his last day, but he did not respond to inquiries. Ada also has yet to release comments on her interim appointment.

Villagomez was appointed as the agency's administrator following the departure of Mark A. Aguon in May 2010. Aguon quit the job after 18 years of service.

Prior to becoming Fund administrator, Villagomez served the agency as its loan manager and analyst. Villagomez earlier disclosed that he's not expecting his contract to be renewed.

According to Commonwealth Retirees Association chair Larry DLG. Cabrera yesterday, Villagomez assured him that a competent team, headed by Ada, will take over the management of the Fund after his departure.

Cabrera said upon learning about Villagomez's expiring contract, he became more worried about the pension program.

"In my last conversation with him [Villagomez], he assured me that Ms. Ada is a very capable individual along with her team members," he said yesterday, adding that he is counting on this assurance.

The chairman believes that Villagomez's stay can still be acted upon by the remaining board of trustees, or a request can be made to the administrator to continue his tenure.

The NMI Retirement Fund has been placed on emergency status by the Executive Branch through an executive order that also aimed to transfer its operation and management to the Department of Finance. But because a bankruptcy case is ongoing, the actual transfer will not happen unless a formal decision is rendered by the bankruptcy judge.

The continuing depletion of the pension program's assets was the main reason for the bankruptcy petition filed by the agency's board in early April. Without infusion of new monies to its portfolio, its lifespan was projected to last less than two years.

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