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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cousins accuse DOC’s Mafnas, Castro of discrimination

Edward M. Cepeda, right, and his cousin, Michael M. Salas, hold some documents, including letters that Department of Corrections Ramon C. Mafnas and DOC director Gregory F. Castro issued terminating them from DOC. The cousins said they will file a harassment and discrimination complaint against the two officials. (Ferdie De La Torre) Two cousins are complaining of being harassed and discriminated against after Corrections Commissioner Ramon C. Mafnas and Department of Corrections director Gregory F. Castro removed them from their jobs without cause last month.

Edward M. Cepeda said that Mafnas and Castro sent him a letter separating him from service with DOC effective Jan. 14, 2014. Cepeda was hired as Corrections Officer 1 in July 2013.

Cepeda’s cousin, Michael M. Salas, was terminated as a Corrections cadet last Dec. 17, about six days before their graduation.

Cepeda and Salas said they are going to file a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against DOC, Mafnas, and Castro.

Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from Mafnas and Castro but they were not available. A DOC staff said she would relay the request for comment to the two officials.

Cepeda said that Mafnas and Castro wrote him separate letters removing him from his post but citing two different reasons.

Cepeda said that Castro’s letter told him he made a couple of mistakes that compromised the health, welfare, safety and security of the institution during his probationary period of employment. Cepeda said he was not aware of any mistakes he made so he wrote Castro to what these alleged mistakes were.

Mafnas, on the other hand, informed him that he was being terminated because of budgetary constraints.

Cepeda said that Castro refused to meet with him, while Mafnas informed him in the letter that there was no need for any further meetings as his decision was final.

Cepeda said that Castro’s letter cited abandonment as one of his alleged mistakes.

“I never abandoned my job! In fact I have an average of 60 hours-plus of overtime,” he said.

Cepeda said he will defend himself to retain his employment because that is his only source of income for himself and his son, a high school student.

Cepeda also alleged that DOC management has been committing several violations of the consent decree that it entered with the U.S. Department of Justice and that he and other Corrections officers can attest to it. He said one of the violations is the lack of hot water for inmates and detainees.

Cepeda pointed out that DOC has centralized air-conditioning and that letting the inmates shower without hot water “is inhumane.”

Cepeda said he wants Gov. Eloy Inos, lawmakers, and U.S. Department of Justice to know that DOC management has been violating the consent decree.

For his part, Salas said he is lost as to why he was terminated when he has already completed training, including the on-the-job component.

Salas said that Castro told him in the letter that he did not “measure up to the standard.”

Salas stated he was never absent and was late only once. He said Mafnas and Castro never talked to him.

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