OPA probes Tinian firefighters’ free OT hours as bonus, gift

Tinian DFEMS deputy commissioner, shift supervisor arrested
A Corrections officer leads Tinian Department of Fire and Emergency Management Services resident deputy commissioner Ignacio SN. Kiyoshi Jr. to a courtroom in the Superior Court for bail hearing yesterday on corruption charges. (Ferdie de la Torre)

A Corrections officer leads Tinian Department of Fire and Emergency Management Services resident deputy commissioner Ignacio SN. Kiyoshi Jr. to a courtroom in the Superior Court for bail hearing yesterday on corruption charges. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Tinian Department of Fire and Emergency Management Services resident deputy commissioner Ignacio SN. Kiyoshi Jr. and Tinian Firefighter 1 Joseph Rudy Santos were arrested over the weekend for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to give the island’s firefighters free overtime hours as a gift or bonus for last year’s holidays using false justification.

According to the investigation conducted by the Office of the Public Auditor, it was Kiyoshi who allegedly initiated the plan and ordered his firefighters to be engaged in the criminal conspiracy to defraud the CNMI government of over $17,000.

In a statement, Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas said effective immediately he is placing Kiyoshi on administrative leave for 15 days to allow for his office to fully assess the situation.

Thereafter, San Nicolas said, he will be making a decision based on the facts that he has gathered, on the next required course of action.

As mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan, San Nicolas said it is his duty to ensure that those entrusted with the delivery of public administration do so in conformance with the law, and with the highest degree of ethical standards.

“I expect those, whom I am appointed to serve as members of my Cabinet, to adhere to these standards and to ensure that we maintain the public’s utmost trust and confidence,” he said.

The mayor said as to the complaint leading to the warrant for the arrest, he cannot comment until he has been fully informed of the facts.

San Nicolas said the law provides that any person accused of a crime, is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law.

“What I can say at this point is that I will not tolerate any conduct, especially from members of my cabinet, which undermines the public’s trust and confidence in our ability to effectively and efficiently administer public programs and services,” he said.

OPA investigators served the arrest warrant to Kiyoshi at Tinian airport on Friday at 12:23pm and to Santos in San Jose, Tinian on Friday at 1:58pm.

Kiyoshi, 39, and Santos, 54, were taken to Superior Court yesterday morning for bail hearing on charges of conspiracy, theft, theft of service, and misconduct in public office.

Associate Judge David A. Wiseman reduced the $50,000 cash bail each initially imposed on the defendants, to $1,000 cash and $5,850 in unsecured bond.

Kiyoshi and Santos posted bail after the hearing.

Arraignment will be at Tinian courthouse on April 8, 2016 at 9am.

Former chief prosecutor Brian Flaherty appeared as counsel for Kiyoshi only for the bail hearing. Assistant public defender Cindy Nesbit was appointed as counsel for Santos.

Assistant attorney general Betsy Weintraub, counsel for the government, recommended to keep the $50,000 cash bail.

Weintraub also noted that Santos has a prior criminal conviction in 2005 over an assault with a dangerous weapon and disturbing the peace incident

OPA investigator Melissa H. Bauleong stated in her report that their investigation started when she received a call last Dec. 29 from a firefighter, who disclosed that Kiyoshi abused his position by giving overtime hours to all Tinian firefighters when in fact the overtime hours were never performed.

Bauleung said that last Jan. 31, she met with DFEMS Training coordinator Paul Sasamoto, who confirmed that all trainings on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota must be coordinated and arranged with his office either for certifications, in-house or refresher course to ensure compliance and requirements of their fields.

Bauleung said she showed to Sasamoto a copy of the request and authorization form reflecting the justification by Tinian DFEMS firefighters.

She said Sasamoto confirmed that the trainings for November and December 2015 as indicated in the form never came to his office.

Sasamoto also stated that Tinian DFEMS did not make any requests, arrangements, or coordinate with him to acknowledge and record the subject hours so it can be sanctioned and recorded in their files.

Bauleong said she and the OPA chief investigator met last Feb. 1 with Department of Public Safety resident director Juan E. Santos, who disclosed that sometime in November or December 2015, his personnel were asking to be transferred to DFEMS because they were making or earning more overtime hours when DFEMS hardly responds to any emergency calls.

Bauleong said that last Feb. 1, a DPS timekeeper stated that when DFEMS separated from DPS, firefighters started handwriting their time, specifically overtime hours.

Bauleong said she and the OPA chief investigator interviewed last Feb. 19, two Tinian firefighters, who disclosed that all the overtime hours that they and other firefighters accumulated between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2015 or “pay periods 25 and 26” were not justified and that no work was performed.

The OPA investigator said a DFEMS shift supervisor disclosed that Kiyoshi gave him instructions to add 30 hours of overtime for him and 50 hours for his subordinates.

The shift supervisor apparently advised his personnel under his shift about what Kiyoshi’s proposal of giving his personnel 50 hours of free overtime.

The shift supervisor said according to Kiyoshi, all they need to do is come up with a justification on their timecards and also on the request and authorization form and that each shift supervisor will sign it off and Kiyoshi will just approve it.

Bauleong said she and the OPA chief investigator interviewed last Feb. 29 seven other Tinian firefighters, who all agreed that they performed overtime work and that the justification that was handwritten on their timecards were true and accurate.

Bauleong said that on the same day, Feb. 29, during an interview, Santos, who was shift supervisor, admitted he was the one who manually or handwritten all the overtime justification hours on each of the personnel under his shift.

Santos denied the allegations and claimed that he worked all the hours showing on his timecards.

Bauleung said that, last March 4, one of the firefighters who was interviewed earlier, apologized to the OPA chief investigator for lying about the overtime issue.

Bauleong said the firefighter admitted that he received 50 hours of overtime for “pay periods 25 and 26.”

The OPA investigator said the firefighter confessed that it all started with a command staff meeting when Kiyoshi laid out his plans about giving the firefighters 50 hours of free overtime hours and how to justify the hours.

The firefighter said that the overtime hours that he received were their holiday gifts from Kiyoshi.

Bauleong said five other firefighters came forward that same day and apologized for their previous untruthful statements about the overtime issue.

Bauleong said the five firefighters disclosed that they made up the hours just to match the 50 hours so that they can get paid for it.

She said the five firefighters admitted that these overtime hours were given to them by Kiyoshi as a form of gift or bonus for the holidays.

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

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.