Wild, Wild Far West

March 28, 2012

Appointing unqualified friends and allies to positions of authority is bad enough. Arming them is just plain irresponsible and dangerous. CNMI Department of Public Safety Commissioner Ramon C. Mafans was issued two guns; one as Secretary of the Department of Corrections, and one as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. It was revealed that he threatened to use one of those guns to "shoot" a security guard.

While any department employee including the commissioner, police officers and corrections officers are required to attend a 40-hour training before being issued a gun, Mafnas was never trained. Captain Leon Guerrero told the Saipan Tribune that Mafnas ordered David Honsono to issue him a 9mm pistol as DPS commissioner and he already had a 9mm pistol issued to him as corrections secretary.

The Tribune reported:
“ [Mafnas] thinks that as the commissioner he's god,” Leon Guerrero said.

As of 1pm yesterday, Mafnas already turned in to Hosono the service firearm issued him as DPS commissioner, Capt. Leon Guerrero said, adding that Mafnas had already surrendered the other gun issued him as Corrections secretary.
Attorney General Weighs In
A petition signed by 139 DPS employees called for the ouster of Mafnas.

The CNMI Attorney General Edward Buckingham, who has himself violated the law while serving under Governor Fitial, defended called for a joint CNMI DPS-FBI investigation of the ever-growing allegations against the commissioner.

AG Buckingham was one of eight individuals who testified for confirmation of the commissioner. The Marianas Variety reported:
“My testimony reflected the man that I have worked with for a number of years. I first worked with Ray Mafnas while he served as the senior policy advisor to the governor. In this capacity I found Mr. Mafnas to be a hard worker, a good thinker and someone who always looked for policies that served the best interests of the commonwealth,” Buckingham said.

“The circumstances are different. There are certain allegations that have been made. These will be investigated and the facts will speak for themselves,” added Buckingham, referring to his objectivity in investigating Mafnas.

“We live on an island where we interact with one another. There have been circumstances where I, in my capacity as attorney general, have had to make decisions that cost me personally. I have always put my duty as AG first. You may choose to believe this or not. However, I sleep well at night because I know I am not perfect but I do my best. That’s all I can do,” Buckingham said.
"There have been circumstances where I, in my capacity as attorney general, have had to make decisions that cost me personally. I have always put my duty as AG first. You may choose to believe this or not." Definitely, not! The AG has put the governor's best interests and keeping his job before his duty as AG, which is to serve the people as the highest law official in the CNMI. This has been evident in election-gate, massage-gate, gun-gate and other controversial incidents where the AG stood with the Administration, defending unethical and/or illegal acts.

Several questions were raised at the June 2011 Mafnas confirmation hearing concerning his qualifications and past incidents. Mafnas was quoted by the Tribune as defending himself against allegations:
Mafnas, in an interview with reporters, said he welcomes those who question his credibility and qualifications to meet with him so he could show them proof that he was honorably discharged from the Marines and that he was acquitted in a case involving assault of a teacher.
With a reputation as a bully and no police or corrections experience, it was obvious that the governor appointed an unqualified person to the position who would do his bidding and cover-up when told to do so. So CNMI, so unfortunate for the general public. Mafnas was known for wearing military attire while acting as commissioner.

More Complaints from MVB
Employees of the CNMI Motor Vehicles Bureau have filed an EEOC complaint and a complaint to the CNMI Civil Services Commission. 

The complaint includes the following statements:
“We just cannot continue to be target of a weekly ritual of fear, of being ridiculed for making mistakes, fear of going to work, fear of intimidation, unwarranted abusive and foul language, public ridicule and humiliation, and the bully attitude thrown at us by Commissioner Ramon C. Mafnas"

"His treatment has to stop, not only to the staff of BMV [and] myself but to the other silent victims who are afraid to report Commissioner Mafnas' intimidation and harassment. It is so sad that we tried to tolerate such a hostile working environment."

"We have tried to tolerate his crude and bully behavior but his weekly visitation for the sole purpose of harassing us is beyond what any person or government employee can tolerate.”
The complaint also stated that Mafnas was abusive to customers were were not local. Just as he targeted Filipino security guards and a Korean dive instructor, the MVB employees stated, "We find that he is quick to harass customers who are not locals and for no reason at all.”

Perhaps the FBI should investigate his threat to shoot an innocent man and these other forms of harassment as racially motivated hate crimes.

It appears that Mafnas has staff in place to protect his interests. This too should be investigated. The Saipan Tribune reported:
On Monday morning, an Attorney General's investigator visited director Leon Guerrero at BMV and inquired about what is going on with DPS and the commissioner. The director related to the investigator what they had been experiencing with Mafnas.

Within 20 minutes after the investigator left her office, director Leon Guerrero said that Mafnas' secretary called and asked her and driver's license technician Guadalupe Repeki to meet with him.

Leon Guerrero said she refused to do so for fear of harassment.
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Should Investigate

It is clear that Mafnas not only threatened and bullied foreigners, but he illegally confiscated the driver licenses of 8-10 foreign workers according to Captain Pete Leon Guerrero. The licenses were not expired and it appears that these incidents were also the acts of a racist bully.

Leon Guerrero stated that the commissioner took the licenses from Filipinos and two Bangladeshis then gave them to his secretary who turned them over to Leon Guerrero. Leon Guerrero arranged for them to be returned to their owners.

At least one person had his license stolen by Mafnas for no apparent reason just last week. KSPN reports that the commissioner took a license from a Filipino heavy equipment operator who violated no law. The commissioner was in an unmarked vehicle and approached the man at lower base where he was night fishing with a companion. Mafnas asked to see his registration and driver's license. The commissioner then took his license. The Filipino filed a complaint for theft at DPS. Mafnas violated the law by stopping him in an unmarked vehicle and by stealing his driver's license.

Since the CNMI Department of Public Safety receives federal funding, those who illegally had their licenses taken by Mafnas can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. Go to this site to file a complaint and read more here.


Green Cards for All! said...

Wendy, I'm glad you concluded with a link to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG), because that is the component of DoJ that is structured to do investigations and issue reports about suspected waste, fraud, and abuse within the Department of Justice.

Whether they have jurisdiction over a state or territorial instrumentality merely because it accepts federal funds from DoJ is an open question to me, not having researched it exhaustively, but I suspect not. Does their website have reports concerning non-DoJ entities that are recipients, for instance, of Byrne Justice Assistance Grants?

Regardless, there is a federal OIG which clearly does have such statutory authority with respect to the CNMI. That is the Department of the Interior (DOI) OIG. See 48 U.S.C. § 1681b. It is unfortunate that the DOI OIG closed down their Guam office around the turn of the century, but they still do have jurisdiction. You might want to include their contact info, too.

The USAO is clearly not the component of DoJ that would do such investigations or reports. Their role is to litigate cases in the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, and that is what their personnel are trained and equipped to do.

It is somewhat curious that the Honorable Edward T. Buckingham III would make such a request, but then he has limited background in federal law.

Incidentally, EEOC cases are filed against an employer, such as the CNMI Government, not an individual supervisor, such as DPS Commissioner Ramon Mafnas. While the news accounts claim “harassment”, there were no published allegations this was done based on ethnicity, gender, or other protected class. Without prejudging that particular complaint, many people in the CNMI are very quick to file unmeritorious charges and lawsuits.

I hope the DOI OIG will do an inspection of the CNMI DPS, which has had major organizational and corruption problems for decades. This would be much more likely if such a request were made by the Governor or Attorney General, but perhaps enough of your readers with knowledge of actual facts (not rumors or the judicially noticeably inaccurate reporting of the Marianas Variety and Saipan Tribune) might also be able to persuade them to act.

Wendy Doromal said...

Hello Green Cards

Thanks for all of the helpful information.

I know the DOI gives federal funding to the CNMI. The contact for the Office of the Inspector General there is HERE.

I would send a complaint to both offices. If one is wrong they will refer the person to the correct office. I think both may accept the complaints!

This is serious. Of course, if someone like Bobby Kennedy was among us today none of the discrimination and constant civil rights violations would be occurring in the CNMI. Shame, shame on the Asian Pacific American Caucus for their silence on everything horrible that is happening to the foreign workers and for their horrible endorsement of an apartheid-type bill.