By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) A federal judge wrote a scathing decision against Torres administration lackey Clyde Norita Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
As Kandit reported this past weekend, Mr. Norita was sued in March this year by a construction company called Double A Corporation. At the time, Mr. Norita was the Commissioner of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services. He, along with his subordinate, DFES fire inspector Anthony Babauta, were sued by Double A for depriving the company of civil rights through a series of arbitrary and capricious decisions.
Double A secured a contract with another private company to install fire sprinklers. Double A would have been paid more than $410,000 by the terms of the contract, had the work been done. The work could not be done, however, unless Double A secured a permit from DFES. Double A applied for the permit, but Mr. Babauta and Mr. Norita both decided to deny the application based on a so-called past installation of a faulty system claimed by the two defendants. They also admit to the existence of a list of companies that Mr. Babauta and Mr. Norita used whenever companies applied for a permit. If you weren't on the list, you weren't approved, according to the filings.
Chief Judge Ramona Manglona noted in her decision that applicants have a property right to permits, so long as they meet established standards; and she quoted from the fire code itself: “If the fire code official is satisfied that the proposed work or operation conforms to the requirements of this code and laws and ordinances applicable thereto, the fire code official shall issue a permit as soon as practicable.”
But denying the permit isn't the only problem created by Mr. Norita and Mr. Babauta against Double A; it wasn't just the loss of $410,000. Another private company informed Double A that it wanted to contract Double A for services, but that Mr. Norita had approached this company and informed the company that Double A was blacklisted by the DFES.
Based on Mr. Norita and Mr. Babauta's clear violation of Double A's constitutional rights to due process, the court denied their motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.
"There is little doubt that Defendants’ alleged actions, if true, violated the Due Process Clause," Judge Manglona's decision states. "Accordingly, both prongs are satisfied, and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity fails."
Interestingly, the court also pointed out the discrepancies in the statements made by Mr. Norita and Mr. Babauta, calling into question the truth of the matter ahead of trial and the end of the discovery period:
Defendants have each submitted affidavits presenting their version of the facts... Both claim that the list Double A refers to is merely a record of who has obtained permits in the past and does not bar anyone else from a receiving one... Norita further alleges that he never reviewed or denied Double A’s application... Babauta’s affidavit, by contrast, refutes Double A’s allegations on the grounds that he does not have the final authority to grant a permit, and that he was not at work in November 2017 when the alleged encounters occurred. According to the complaint, it was on or about November 3, 2017 when Double A reached an agreement with Proper Grand to perform the fire sprinkler system installation work. Declarations from Double A’s Project Manager Antonie Santos (ECF No. 25-3) and business consultant Thomas S. Salas state that the application and follow-up meetings began in December 2017 and continued into January 2018. Yet, Babauta only claims that, due to a leave from work, he never reviewed any applications submitted the month before. (Babauta Aff. ¶ 9–13.) Regardless, even if both affidavits squarely denied every word of Salas’s declaration, that would merely create a factual issue for trial. It is not the role of the Court on summary judgment to weigh competing affidavits.
To the extent there are any holes in the evidentiary record, discovery is not over.
Mr. Norita is the subject of intense scrutiny and investigation for his roles in the Torres administration and the political and corruption scandals that have been brought to light in recent days.
The decision follows: