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Ex-financial officer sues CUC for discrimination

THE former chief financial officer of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has filed a discrimination lawsuit against it in federal court and is demanding a jury trial.

Matthew J. Yaquinto, in his complaint filed on Dec. 29, 2017, said he was discriminated against because of his race and because he is “white.”

Represented by attorney David Banes, Yaquinto is alleging unlawful employment practices, violations of civil rights and due process, discrimination based upon race, color and national origin, and breach of contract.

Matthew J. Yaquinto

He is asking the court for general and incidental and consequential damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

He is likewise asking the court for an order of back-pay or any equitable relief as well as an award of compensatory and punitive damages, including but not limited to damages for wages lost, loss of reputation, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.

According to his complaint, CUC was sued by the U.S. government for violating certain conditions of Clean Water Act, and entered into two stipulated orders for preliminary injunctive relief.

He said the stipulated orders were intended to ensure that CUC’s power plant facilities would achieve compliance and that CUC would hire certain people with approved qualifications.

Yaquinto was hired as CUC’s CFO on or about April 15, 2015 as he met the required conditions of the stipulated orders. He reported directly to CUC’s board of directors.

According to Yaquinto, CUC hired and promoted Gary Camacho as acting executive director of CUC in order to circumvent the requirements of the stipulated orders and oversight of the District Court for the NMI.

He said Camacho is not qualified to be CUC’s executive director, but he is a person of Northern Marianas descent.

On or about May 24, 2016, in his capacity as CFO of CUC, Yaquinto said he released a report that CUC was suffering financial troubles.

The very next day, without review or explanation, Camacho, acting at the direction of the CUC board, terminated Yaquinto’s contract without cause, the lawsuit stated.

It added that Camacho did not have the appropriate authority to do so as Yaquinto’s contract stated that the CFO reported directly to the board of directors.

Yaquinto said the real reason CUC terminated him was his national origin (European), his color (white) and his race (Caucasian).

He said he was pressured by members of the board to hire only persons of NMI descent and when Yaquinto made decisions based on merit, not race, the board members accused him of being discriminatory against “locals” or persons of NMI descent.

Immediately after being fired, Yaquinto attempted to file a grievance with CUC, but he said the board refused to hear his grievance.

Yaquinto added that he was also constantly harassed by the board and later by Camacho. This created a hostile work environment that made working at CUC very difficult, Yaquinto said.

He said during almost every board meeting or board committee meeting that he attended during his employment, the majority of board members would accuse Yaquinto of various things that were not true: discriminating against locals by making hiring decisions based only on merit; having an “agenda” other than the board’s such as disclosing CUC’s real economic situation; and not providing information in a timely fashion.

The lawsuit stated that the actions of CUC’s board and Camacho were motivated by a bias due to Yaquinto’s national origin, race and color.

Persons of NMI descent were not treated this way, the lawsuit stated, adding that on information and belief, the board’s actions were intended to make Yaquinto resign so he could be replaced with a person of NMI descent.

In Nov. 2016, Yaquinto and former CUC public information officer Brad Ruszala sued the CUC board for violating the Open Government Act, the Government Ethics Code and the terms of the federal stipulated orders.

The two alleged that the board repeatedly violated the Open Government Act and the government’s Ethics Code.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/101206-ex-financial-officer-sues-cuc-for-discrimination

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