Gov, Benigno R. Fitial has placed embattled Department of Public Safety Commissioner Ray Mafnas on administrative leave effective yesterday and until further notice.
Fitial said in a memo yesterday that DPS deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro will serve as acting commissioner for both DPS and the Department of Corrections effective immediately.
Attorney General Edward T. Buckingham separately said the Office of the Attorney General is now reviewing the complaints against Mafnas, now being petitioned for removal by at least 139 DPS employees. OAG has also sought assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office on this matter.
“The general practice of the Office of the Attorney General is not to comment on pending investigations. However, given the high profile of this matter and public interest, it is appropriate to offer some comment. As to your question, yes, these matters are currently under review,” Buckingham told Saipan Tribune.
He, however, said he cannot be more specific at this time.
At the same time, House Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations chair Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) said yesterday that he will convene a committee meeting today to discuss the petition signed by at least 139 DPS employees wanting Mafnas’s removal as DPS commissioner.
Copies of the petition were distributed yesterday afternoon at both the Legislature and the Office of the Governor.
“It’s a serious matter. We will discuss it [today] and we go from there. I personally want this addressed and resolved,” Rep. Demapan said.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said yesterday that the allegations are “serious matters that warrant the governor’s immediate attention.”
“Cognizant that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, the administration will take all necessary steps to ensure that the integrity of the Commonwealth’s police force is not compromised. The Attorney General is currently communicating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on this matter,” he said.
Buckingham said while OAG is fully capable of conducting a review of facts and issues, “there is also an issue of perception and public confidence.”
“Commissioner Mafnas has stated that he welcomes either a CNMI or a federal investigation. Likewise the Office of the Attorney General welcomes a joint review of the issues presented,” Buckingham said.
He has requested federal authorities to join his office in an investigation of this matter, but the request is still pending.