Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Sablan) hopes that police officers who were furloughed from the Department of Public Safety would appeal—or even sue—following DPS Commissioner Robert Guerrero’s statement at the budget hearing for the department last week that the decision was based on performance and loyalty.
“Performance and loyalty. What exactly did the Commissioner mean by that? He couldn’t explain,” said Sablan in a statement she gave at the House of Representatives session on Thursday—the day after the budget hearing, during which Guerrero had walked out.
“Some of them have been in the force for two decades, certainly longer than the commissioner’s sons and other relatives and loyalists who remain at DPS. Some of them are decorated military veterans who served our country honorably and deserve far better than the treatment they got,” Sablan added, referring to the furloughed officers.
Sablan also cited the commissioner’s statements that appears to acknowledge his own violation of civil service regulations, as well as the rights of the police officers who were furloughed. She added that Guerrero did not even bother to read the civil service regulations intended to ensure fairness and orderliness when reductions in force must be made due to lack of funds, as well as to protect civil service employees and recognize seniority of service.
Further, the legislator noted that the police officers were furloughed even as DPS continues to pay overtime, including to the commissioner himself.
Sablan also called out Guerrero for his “blatant misrepresentation of facts” following the commissioner’s claim that the furloughed police officers were advised of their rights to appeal their furloughs, pursuant to the civil service regulations.
“After the hearing, I received a copy of one of the furlough letters he sent out, and it actually advises the officers that they have no option to appeal, which is just, plainly wrong, according to the civil service regulations. I hope they all appeal. Frankly, I hope they all sue. That would be within their rights,” she said. “These are abuses of power. …The question is, what are we going to do about it? DPS has long been overdue for oversight.”
At the budget hearing, Guerrero became defensive at Sablan’s questions on nepotism, furloughs, and civil service rules and later walked out.
“I think more scrutiny on DPS is necessary,” Sablan said. She urged House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) to call in the Office of Personnel and Management, as well as agency heads who have implemented furloughs, to respond to lawmakers’ concerns.