DFEMS inspector denies reviewing fire system permit application


A fire inspector of the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services denies reviewing an application for a fire system permit by a company that is suing him and former DFEMS commissioner Claudio K. Norita.
Fire Inspector Anthony Babauta stated in an affidavit that he had never interacted with Double A Corp. or its principal in November 2017.
The affidavit was filed in the U.S. District Court in support of Norita’s motion for summary judgment in connection with Double A’s lawsuit.

Double A installs fire sprinkler systems. It sued Norita and Babauta last March, accusing them of refusing to accept its permit application for a sprinkler system and causing it to lose a $410,150 contract. Double A is suing Norita and Babauta for deprivation of property without due process.

In his affidavit, Babauta said he never reviewed Double A’s application at any point as to examine it for sufficiency or for the purposes of determining whether the permit should be issued or not, nor to accept or deny the application.

Babauta said Norita designated him in 2015 with the authority, up until the end of Norita’s term in May 2019, to accept, approve, or deny permits and certification applications in accordance with the International Fire Code, as mandated by NMI Administrative Code.

With the designation, Babauta reviewed and approved or disapproved permit applications, along with the DFEMS commissioner.

He pointed out that he could only provide recommendations and that it was Norita who could make the ultimate decisions on applications.

Babauta said that, from 2015 through 2019, Norita was the only authorized decision-maker at DFEMS on permit and certification applications, as described in Double A’s lawsuit.

Babauta said he does not have the authority to review an appeal should a protest arise from a denied application.

He said that in November 2017, Norita was still the commissioner and had the sole authority to accept or deny permit and certification applications as described in the lawsuit.

Babauta said he did not make any decision or representation pertaining to the review or ultimate denial of Double A’s application.

At the time of Double A’s submission of its application to DFEMS in November 2017, Babauta said he was on personal leave, tending to his wife who has been undergoing medical treatment since 2015.

As such, he said, he was only present for work at DFEMS for approximately four days of the entire November 2017. In those four days, Babauta said, he never interacted and reviewed Double’s application, nor did he provide any official or non-official recommendation on the company’s application.

After being absent from work for nearly the entire month of November 2017, Babauta said he returned to work the following month.

To his knowledge, Babauta said, the DFEMS Division of Fire Prevention maintains a list of companies and persons who have previously installed fire suppression system that were approved. This list, he said, has no impact upon the approval of any installed fire system.

In his affidavit, Norita said he never denied a fire system permit from Double A.

Norita’s declaration was attached to support his motion for a summary judgment that seeks to have the suit dismissed.

Norita said he never spoke with Proper Grand CNMI LLC about Double A or any fire sprinkler system that was to be installed in 2017 in any complex or building it owned.

Double A, through counsel Joseph E. Horey, asked the federal court to hold Norita and Babauta liable to pay the company an unspecified amount for damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees.

According to Horey in the complaint, Double A, which is engaged in the construction business with a specialty in fire sprinkler system and fire suppression, submitted on Oct. 20, 2017, a quotation to Proper Grand CNMI for the installation of a fire sprinkler system at the Sugar King Dormitory, which Proper Grand operates.

Horey said Proper Grand agreed to hire Double A for the project for $410,150.

The lawyer said Double A applied for a permit with Babauta that would authorize it to install the sprinkler system.

Babauta allegedly refused to accept any permit application from Double A, failed to issue the permit sought, and failed to examine the company’s application within a reasonable time.

Horey said Double A appealed to Norita and that Norita also refused to accept any permit application from Double A and failed to state the reasons for his rejection of the application.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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