Ex-DPW employee wants former employer sanctioned


A former Department of Public Works Public information officer has asked the Superior Court to deny DPW’s motion to dismiss his petition for a judicial review of DPW’s termination of his employment, and to impose a Rule 11 sanction against the department.

Felipe Q. Atalig, a former DPW PIO who is representing himself in this lawsuit, wants sanctions imposed on the department for alleged violations made during the process of seeking a dismissal of the plaintiffs’ petition for a judicial review of his termination.

Atalig explained that, according to Rule 11,  when an attorney, or an unrepresented party, submits a complaint, defense, memorandum of law, or other written submission to the court, he is certifying that the document is not being submitted for an improper purpose such as to harass someone; the legal arguments have a basis under existing law or there is a good-faith basis to change the law or create new law; the facts are supported by evidence or will be supported by evidence; and denials of any facts are supported by evidence or will be supported by evidence.

Rule 11 also provides that if the rule is violated, a court may impose a punishment on any attorney, law firm, or party responsible for the violation, Atalig said.

However, Atalig said, DPW failed to include the claim processing issue in its initial motion to dismiss.

“DPW knew or should have known about the claim-processing issue and completely failed to assert such a claim in its first motion to dismiss.  Knowing full well that DPW negligently failed to include the claim processing issue in its initial motion to dismiss, DPW knew that the only way to get a second bite at the apple was to assert that its second successive motion to dismiss was now being made pursuant to NMI R. P. Admin. App. 2(g)(2)…. [But] the Northern Mariana Islands Rules of Procedure for Administrative Appeals do not provide such explicit authority to file a successive motion to dismiss,” Atalig said.

Because of this, Atalig argues that the filing of the successive motion to dismiss is being made for an improper purpose such as to harass the petitioner; the legal arguments for a motion to dismiss have no basis under existing law; DPW has waived its right to file successive motion to dismiss based on claim processing issue; and the Rules prohibit the filing of successive motion to dismiss in this case, therefore the court should impose a Rule 11 sanction against DPW as the moving party.

“The punishment could include, among other things, fines paid to the court, compensating the other party, and paying another party’s attorneys’ fees,” he said.

DPW Secretary James Ada terminated Atalig, 83, back in March 2018 for alleged sexual harassment.

Atalig is a former member of the Marianas District Legislature and the Congress of Micronesia and was a delegate to the NMI’s first constitutional convention in 1976.

However, Atalig said he merely put his hand in an engineer’s pocket to demonstrate a point during an argument, but the engineer alleged that Atalig touched him inappropriately.

In his petition for judicial review, Atalig claims that the real reason for his termination was an ongoing power struggle between him and one of DPW’s directors.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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