15 Feb 2018
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
THE Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has denied the claims of its former chief finance officer who alleged that he was fired because he was white.
Matthew J. Yaquinto, the former CUC CFO, sued CUC and unnamed officials for unlawful employment practices, violations of civil rights and due process, discrimination based upon race, color, and national origin and breach of contract. The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the NMI.
CUC legal counsel James S. Sirok filed an answer to Yaquinto’s allegations, and a counterclaim against the former CUC CFO.
Sirok said Yaquinto has not properly pleaded the facts, and has not cited any federal statute that will support his claims based on the CNMI Constitution and non-federal questions. Therefore, Sirok said, there is no jurisdictional grounds for the federal court to assert jurisdiction.
As to the allegations that Yaquinto was terminated without review or explanation, Sirok said CUC denies this but admits that CUC Executive Director Gray Camacho informed plaintiff that his employment would be terminated in 30 days.
CUC also denies Yaquinto’s allegations that he was terminated because of his national origin.
CUC likewise denied all other allegations of Yaquinto.
Sirok said CUC’s decisions were governed by legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.
He added that Yaquinto’s employment termination was done pursuant to the provisions of a valid and lawful contract executed between CUC and Yaquinto.
Sirok said the contract provided that CUC could terminate Yaquinto’s employment without cause upon providing no less than 30 days advance written notice.
“CUC complied with all the contractual requirements related to the termination of Yaquinto’s employment,” said Sirok.
Yaquinto’s behavior and actions on the job were such that independent grounds for non-discriminatory termination existed, Sirok added.
In its counterclaim, CUC alleged that July 2015, Yaquinto stripped the payroll manager’s access to some of the critical modules of the CUC payroll system which prevented her from auditing timesheets and overtime pay.
Also on the same date, Yaquinto removed from the administrative treasurer’s control, oversight and management of CUC’s funds, including all money and banking matters, Sirok added.
He said Yaquinto and the chief of accounting assumed control of the financial activities of CUC that prevented the treasurer from auditing and balancing all of the banking accounts of CUC including the account from which CUC’s payroll was deducted.
According to CUC’s counterclaim, Yaquinto, for the period between July 22, 2015 and Nov. 14, 2016, calculated his time on biweekly time sheets by including overtime which was not authorized by the then acting executive director or the board of directors.
Sirok said Yaquinto did it knowing that he was not eligible for overtime pay as an “exempt” employee. Yaquinto’s calculations were incorrect and did not represent the actual overtime hours he worked for those pay periods, Sirok added.
He said Yaquinto included on his timesheets for payment to himself 386.6 hours of overtime, for a total amount of overtime pay of approximately $49,399.25.
Sirok said Yaquinto instructed the staff of the payroll section to pay him his overtime pay in addition to his regular pay.
In addition to instructing payment to himself, Yaquinto instructed CUC’s payroll and accounting staff to make salary advances to him knowing full well that based on an internal CUC policy, payroll advances were not allowed, Sirok said.
He added that Yaquinto wire-transferred $58,000 in CUC funds to bank accounts in Moscow, Russia; Tbilini, Georgia; and Chonburi, Thailand.
A total of at least 11 personal wire transfers to the destinations were processed by the accounting office at the direction of Yaquinto for his personal benefit, and wire-transfer fees associated with the wire transfer were paid by CUC without authorization from the then-acting executive director or the board, Sirok said.
He added that Yaquinto only provided a receipt for one airline ticket from Thailand to Saipan in the amount of $1,262 which he paid on March 16, 2015 but was never deducted from his $10,000 moving expenses as part of his employment contract and paid on April 21, 2015.
Pursuant to the contract Yaquinto was to provide receipts no later than 30 days following the first day of work, Sirok said. But Yaquinto never provided any other receipts to substantiate his $10,000 in moving expenses to Saipan, Sirok added.
CUC is asking the court for general, incidental and consequential damages in an amount to be proven at trial for the wire-transfer costs charged to CUC and for the total unauthorized overtime payments made to Yaquinto.
CUC is also asking the court for pre-judgment and post-judgment interest accruing on any amount owed to CUC by Yaquinto, and award of costs, including expert fees and reasonable attorney’s fees and other relief the court may deem proper.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/102267-cuc-denies-allegations-of-former-chief-finance-officer-files-counterclaim