GUAM POLICE CHIEF ON HOT SEAT

By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 16) - In the middle of testifying at an oversight hearing yesterday, Guam Police Department acting Chief Earl Aguigui paused and his eyes welled up with tears.

"There were a lot of allegations made, a lot of things said about me, but I am not here to continue with those type of accusations," Aguigui said. "I think deep down in my heart I know that whatever I did was in good faith, and that it was true, lawful and honest."

For a second day, the police department was the focus of a legislative Committee of Public Safety and Tourism hearing.

Committee Chairman John Quinata, D-Talofofo, questioned Aguigui, who has been nominated by President Bush to be the U.S. Marshal for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, on whether any special treatment was given in a domestic violence case involving Attorney General Douglas Moylan.

Aguigui said he could not comment on the case because it is going through the court system, but would testify if he is ordered to do so in court.

Aguigui also could not comment on allegations made Tuesday that he ordered a police officer to change a report on a case involving the son of Supreme Court of Guam Justice Frances Tydingco-Gatewood. He said that the case is being handled in the Civil Service Commission and it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case.

While some police officers brought up concerns about Aguigui Tuesday, several others yesterday stood by their chief.

"I know a lot of people are saying here that we are not moving or we are moving back. I don't think so. I think we are doing good," said Officer Ken Espinosa. "I've worked with Maj. Aguigui, I've been under his command for several years ... and I know that he's got what he takes to run the police department."

Quinata said after the hearing he will consider establishing a special committee to investigate allegations made during the hearing and to his office anonymously. The senator said he wasn't sure who would be on the committee, "But we would definitely look and get the expertise of people who can do this."

Aguigui also responded yesterday to allegations made Tuesday that he transferred officers out of retaliation.

"Transfers are common and transfers are made to ensure the police department is manned properly," Aguigui said. "I would want to see people who are skilled, who have the experience, in certain critical positions."

Sen. Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, asked Aguigui if he takes into consideration the wishes of the police officers who are going to be transferred.

"I would not make that a practice because then that in itself defeats the whole purpose of transfers. There would perhaps be some ... circumstances where that would be appropriate such as if a police officer who resides in Dededo is being transferred to Agat but the father or the mother is gravely ill -- then I can take those things into consideration," Aguigui said. "But nine times out of 10, transfers are for the benefit of the organization and the public."

Aguigui said he knows that some of his decisions may not be favorable.

"In so much as we would want to accommodate police officers ... I am not here for a popularity contest," Aguigui said.

Sgt. Eric Fisher said yesterday that the problems at the department are not new and have been brought up under other chiefs during his 19 years in service.

"But we can't do it alone," Fisher told senators. "We really need your support."

Before testifying, Aguigui questioned Quinata on whether the hearing was legal and asked when the public notice was published in the newspaper. Quinata said that it was published in Saturday's Pacific Daily News.

"Well if I remember correctly, the open government law is that you have to make an announcement five days prior to the hearing and 48 hours prior to that hearing," Aguigui said. "So if memory serves me right, the first announcement should have been made last ... Tuesday. Now these are working days, it does not include calendar days."

Quinata responded, "It's days."

Aguigui said, "No, working days. If you don't know when ... that first announcement was made ... then how is it that you, yourself, cannot even hold yourself responsible for this public hearing, if you don't know about the open government law?" Aguigui asked. "And therefore this hearing is illegal."

Quinata said after the hearing that his office informed the media several days before the hearing and the public was given adequate notice.

The hearing then shifted focus to the department's budget.

"In July 29, we met in this very session hall ... and you asked what would it take for the Guam Police Department to continue its operation for fiscal year 2004," Aguigui said. "We told you then not to reduce our budget of $16.7 million."

But GPD's budget was reduced by more than $55,000. Most of the cuts came from its operational budget, which pays for utilities, fuel for vehicles and rent.

The operational budget for the department this year is $394,000, compared to last year's operational budget of $1.3 million.

"I do understand there is an increase in our budget for personnel services, but there is a decrease in our budget for operational costs," Aguigui said. "The $394,000 is insufficient for the operational cost."

He said that this year's budget also excludes overtime that police officers have long since been overdue, as far back as the 1999 South Pacific Games. The overtime owed has climbed to more than $2 million, and Aguigui said the delay in compensation has caused low morale at the department.

"These officers need that money," Aguigui said. "It has been long overdue."

Quinata said after the hearing that his office has begun working with police department officials to find the money to fund the agency.

"We are definitely looking at trying to find more money elsewhere to give the Guam Police Department," Quinata said. "But it would help me to know exactly what they need and that has come out."

October 16, 2003

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