“Defendant should be ordered to return to the Commonwealth Treasury the unlawful compensation in excess of the salary established by 1 CMC § 8245(a).” – Attorney General Edward Manibusan on Robert Guerrero
Attorney General Edward Manibusan on February 1, 2022, sued Robert Guerrero to recover $46,892.96 in overtime hours paid to him in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yutu. Mr. Guerrero and scores of other cronies of Gov. Ralph Torres were paid tens of thousands of dollars each in illegal overtime benefits at the expense of the very people who were suffering and were supposed to be the focus of recovery.
According to Mr. Manibusan’s complaint, the people of the Commonwealth were “harmed and have been harmed by the excessive compensation of Defendant Robert A. Guerrero, a Commonwealth government employee who was not entitled to typhoon emergency premium compensation, overtime, or extra pay for work performed during the declared major disaster and state of significant emergency relating to Super Typhoon Yutu.”
Yutu devastated the CNMI between October 24 and 25, 2018. In its wake, the Torres administration authorized overtime at 2.5 times the rate of salary for cabinet members and staff of the governor, all of whom are prohibited by Commonwealth law from receiving overtime payments.
The attorney general pointed out to the court that the personnel regulations allowing for 2.5 times overtime pay following typhoons also specifically prohibits exempt employees and gubernatorial appointments. Mr. Guerrero and his fellow cronies in the Torres cabinet and governor’s office all are exempt employees of the government.
“The Civil Service Commission’s Excepted Service Regulations,” Mr. Manibusan wrote, “do not provide for 2.5x base rate typhoon emergency premium pay. The Civil Service Commission’s Excepted Service Regulations do not authorize the payment of overtime to persons not subject to the Excepted Service Regulations pursuant to NMIAC § 10-10-005, including gubernatorial appointees.”
According to the attorney general, there is no Commonwealth law allowing Guerrero and his comrades to receive premium pay. “There is no Commonwealth law providing for overtime for positions exempted from the civil service system and not subject to the excepted service personnel regulations, including gubernatorial appointees,” Mr. Manibusan wrote.
The attorney general stated to the court that neither the director of personnel services nor the governor had any authority whatsoever to authorize the overtime. He also stated that the pay cabinet members and governor’s office employees ended up receiving violated their salary caps set by law.
“Defendant should be ordered to return to the Commonwealth Treasury the unlawful compensation in excess of the salary established by 1 CMC § 8245(a),” Mr. Manibusan wrote in his prayer for relief to the court in the case.