Judge denies terminated firefighters’ request to be reinstated
SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho on Monday denied the request of nine terminated firefighters to be reinstated.
In his 28-page order, Judge Camacho said (1) as civil service employees they have not exhausted their case with the Civil Service Commission; (2) a preliminary injunction is not a proper remedy for economic harm; and (3) (a) plaintiffs do not have a strong likelihood of success on the merits for any of their claims; (b) the level of the threat of irreparable harm to plaintiffs is primarily a question of financial harm for which an adequate remedy would be available on the merits; and (c) the public’s interest in protecting the health of the whole CNMI and preventing the spread of Covid-19 outweighs the privacy and other interests of the nine individual firefighters.
The nine terminated firefighters are asking the Superior Court to issue an order declaring their terminations invalid and unlawful, and to set their terminations aside.
They are alleging that their terminations violated the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Commonwealth Constitution.
They are also alleging that their terminations violated the parallel clauses set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applicable to the CNMI via the Covenant.
The plaintiffs are Paul Acebedo, Jose K. Angui, Allen T. Calvo, Cain C. Castro, Algernon A. Flores, Derek B. Gersonde, Shawn DLR Kaipat, Philip Kalen, and Adam J. Safer.
They named as defendants the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and DFEMS Commissioner Dennis Mendiola in his official and personal capacity.
The firefighters were terminated for insubordination following their refusal to take the Covid-19 vaccine as required by the CNMI Governor’s Directive 2021-002.
Judge Camacho, in his order, noted that the plaintiffs received both notice and an opportunity to be heard.
“With respect to notice, Commissioner Mendiola sent a memorandum to DFEMS personnel, including the plaintiffs, on March 16, 2021, stating that failure to register for the Covid-19 vaccine by March 18, 2021 may be grounds for termination. Commissioner Mendiola also provided to the plaintiffs, on March 19, 2021, a Notice of Proposed Adverse Action-Termination, informing plaintiffs of their proposed termination, the reasons for their proposed termination, the date the termination was to take effect, the legal justification for the termination, and notifying plaintiffs of their right to respond.”