2 firefighters terminated for not complying with rules, official says

FIRE chief Clyde Norita said he recently fired two firefighters for failing to comply with the department’s rules and regulations.

Norita appeared before members of the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs for a budget hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

He said firefighters under commonwealth law are required to have high standards of character and skills to deliver quality service to the community.

He told senators that since he became a commissioner of the fire department, he has been strictly implementing its policies.

Norita said just three weeks ago, he fired two firefighters for not complying with the rules.

In an interview, he said it was not the first time that he has fired  employees. 

“We normally ask them to resign to avoid termination, but if they don’t want to resign, then I terminate them. They have to understand that they are different from other government employees. We have rules and regulations that they need to abide by. They have to comply with the laws of the commonwealth,” Norita said.

For fiscal year 2019, his department is asking for a $6.2 million budget, which is $1 million higher than the governor’s proposed budget for the department and $2 million higher than its budget in FY 2018.

Norita said the bulk of their budget will go toward the purchase of a new tanker which will cost $500,000.

He said $400,000 will pay for the salary adjustment of their employees as mandated by Public Law 19-83 and $459,000 will fund the hiring of  15 new firefighters.

He said when the CNMI government implemented an across-the-board pay hike last year, the money they used to for the salary increases came from the supplemental budget.

He said they need to “imbed” the pay raises in their FY 2019 budget.

He also noted that there are six fire stations on Saipan, but the department has only one fire truck servicing all of them.

He said his department asked for two fire trucks last year, and they were able to secure federal funds to buy one fire truck and local funding  to purchase  another fire truck.

He said they will be getting the two fire trucks soon.

Sen. Jude Hofschneider, chairman of the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs, said in an interview that the fire department’s request is realistic and reasonable.

“We want to make sure we entertain their request simply because of the workload and the increased demand for their services. That translates to additional need for manpower. So we are looking at their request, and we will take that into account once we see the budget bill that the House passes,” the senator said.

The fire department has 164  employees: 121 on Saipan, 18 on Rota and 25 on Tinian.