Mafnas alleges Gov. Torres told him to conduct corrupt multi-million dollar procurement
Gov. Ralph Torres’s chief of staff allegedly threatened – in writing – to fire a longtime civil service employee if that employee did not support Torres’s reelection bid.
Jose Mafnas – the former customs director at whom the threat allegedly was directed – was fired July 21 by Wil Castro’s subordinate, secretary of finance David Atalig, Jr.
In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the CNMI, Mr. Mafnas, who is fighting his removal at the customs director, alleges Mr. Castro sent text messages through Mr. Mafnas’s niece warning him to be loyal to Gov. Torres, or else.
“Mr. Mafnas’s constitutional right to vote freely and as he sees fit has been under fire for months, with a recent written communication/threat coming from the incumbent governor’s Chief of Staff to Mr. Mafnas’s niece on May 22, 2022, that if Mr. Mafnas ‘is with the governor, in terms of the vision, then it is all good’ and that the Chief of Staff, apparently speaking for the governor, sees no ethical conflict in removing a person who is ‘unwilling or incapable of executing the executive direction,'” the lawsuit states.
“The incumbent governor’s Chief of Staff in a written communication to Mr. Mafnas’s niece also threatened that if ‘[Mr. Mafnas] fuhks (sic) with my Governor I’ll fire him myself,'” the lawsuit continued. When Mr. Mafnas directly engaged the incumbent governor’s Chief of Staff in a written communication to address these comments, the Chief of Staff replied: ‘Director, I’ve been a winner and a loser. But I’ve never lost a civil service battle.'”
The reference to a civil service ‘battle’ has become an allusion to the present situation, where Mr. Mafnas now is fighting in court what appears to be a wrongful termination based on the CNMI’s civil service laws.
“The Secretary of Finance’s Order is a demotion and an adverse action taken against Mr. Mafnas with no recognition of his right to due process and is a violation of Mr. Mafnas’s constitutional rights,” the lawsuit states. According to Mr. Mafnas, he was removed from his position without any notice of adverse action or opportunity to make his case or to appeal Mr. Atalig’s decision.
He further alleges Mr. Atalig illegally transferred him to a non-existent position at the Department of Commerce, which further stripped the longtime civil service employee of his merit protections.
Mr. Mafnas, in his complaint, also implied that Gov. Torres himself instructed him to conduct an illegal and corrupt multi-million dollar procurement.
“Further, the incumbent governor has verbally instructed Mr. Mafnas, on at least three different occasions, to purchase a multi-million-dollar X-Ray Machine for Customs, but to ‘run it through [the governor’s] brother,'” the lawsuit states. “This was another executive directive that Mr. Mafnas refused to participate in and instead Mr. Mafnas relayed his concerns to his then-supervisor, the Secretary of Finance, and the machine was not pursued under those terms.”
Mr. Mafnas is seeking his job back, and for the Commonwealth government to pay his legal fees associated with the lawsuit.