A 25-year veteran of the CNMI’s police force, Jason T. Tarkong, is suing the Department of Public Safety and the Civil Service Commission for alleged discrimination in its hiring and promotions practices after he was not promoted to sergeant.
Tarkong, who has just been promoted to police officer 3, wants the court to stop DPS and CSC from filling two police sergeant positions until after the court’s review.
The commission opened exam announcement 15-052 on April 23, 2015, to develop “an open competitive and promotional eligible list” for two police sergeant positions with DPS.
Tarkong, through counsel Robert T. Torres, asked the court to compel DPS and CSC to comply with the Personnel System Rules and Regulations and the competitive selection, merit increases, and promotion processes.
Tarkong asked the court to end discriminatory practices at DPS when it hires, promotes, and increases salaries.
He also asked the court to invalidate a list of candidates for announcement 15-052, saying it contains names that were not properly ranked and certified. He asked the court to order CSC to re-announce the positions.
Tarkong also asked the court to direct DPS and CSC to pay his attorney’s fees.
In Tarkong’s petition for judicial review, while still a police officer 2, he applied for the position of police sergeant as announced in 15-052 between April 23, 2015 and May 7, 2015.
Torres said that on June 30, 2015, CSC certified six applicants as eligible.
Torres said Tarkong was at the top of this list, indicating he was rated first among the certified applicants.
Torres said below the “promotional” listing on the certification of eligibles list was a list of two certified eligible applicants alongside the category “reemployment”—Arnold K. Seman and Jeffrey F. Olopai.
Torres said the names of Seman and Olopai appeared directly below the list of four names alongside the category “promotional,” indicating they were rated fifth and sixth among the certified eligible candidates.
Torres said no more than two of the six applicants listed on the certification of eligibles list had any experience as police officer 3s—Florencio Q. Falig and Arnold Seman.
Torres said Olopai had held a permanent position in the personnel service of the Commonwealth, reaching as high as police officer 2.
Torres said Olopai, however, left that position without being demoted or promoted through reduction-in-force prior to his application and was not employed by the Commonwealth at the time of his application.
In contrast, the lawyer noted, Tarkong has served with DPS since 1991, had earned an education/degree or other education listed on application, and had served as a DPS police officer 2 for over 17 years.
Torres said DPS selected Olopai and Simon T. Manacop for the two sergeant positions under announcement 15-052.
Torres said Olopai is a former police officer 2, while Manacop was listed third on the certification of eligibles list and was at that time a police officer 1 with DPS.
Tarkong then wrote a letter to the DPS commissioner on Oct. 27, 2015, stating a grievance regarding the process in which the sergeant positions under announcement 15-052 were filled.
Two months later, Tarkong received a response to his grievance letter from then-acting DPS commissioner Robert A. Guerrero. Guerrero replaced James Deleon Guerrero as DPS commissioner sometime after Tarkong’s grievance letter was written.
Unsatisfied with Guerrero’s decision, Tarkong submitted his grievance to CSC on Jan. 13, 2016.
DPS moved to dismiss Tarkong’s grievance.
According to DPS, Tarkong is a police officer 2 and was never qualified for the position of sergeant. DPS said Tarkong suffered no injury-in-fact when he was not hired because he was ineligible to be hired.
DPS argued that none of the candidates on the list were eligible, including Tarkong, and the faulty certification process was completely outside of DPS’ control.
On May 16, 2016, CSC’s attorney sent an email to Tarkong, postponing Tarkong’s status conference scheduled for that day because the CSC chairman “is not available for hearing this morning.” The email did not include a rescheduled date for the hearing, but states that CSC was doing its best to resolve the matter.
Torres said that on June 15, 2016, Tarkong sent a follow up email to CSC and DPS requesting an explanation for the delay. Torres said neither the CSC nor DPS responded to Tarkong.
Tarkong again sent an email on Oct. 14, 2016, to CSC and DPS contesting the lack of response to his inquiries and the lack of progress in his grievance.
Torres said CSC’s counsel sent a response four days later, stating that CSC “has not authorized us to respond to your inquiry on their behalf.”
Torres asserted that the Civil Service Act and the PSRR authorize Commonwealth employees to protest unlawful personnel actions by bringing a grievance.
“DPS routinely failed to address the grievance of Tarkong or addressed it in a quite untimely manner,” Torres said.
Torres said CSC has failed to follow through on Tarkong’s grievance, letting it stagnate while refusing to provide any information as to when the commission may take it up again or if it ever will.
Last month, police captain Lawrence M. Camacho, a 25-year veteran of the CNMI’s police force, also filed a discrimination lawsuit against DPS and CSC for allegedly not selecting him as director of police despite being the only one qualified. Torres is also counsel for Camacho.