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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 13) – Lawmakers made the Guam State Clearinghouse part of the lieutenant governor's office, and the governor does not have the authority to remove it, according to a legal opinion issued yesterday morning by the Attorney General's Office.

Gov. Felix Camacho also does not have the authority to fire members of the clearinghouse staff, the opinion written by Compiler of Laws Charles Troutman states.

The lieutenant governor has a separate budget for his office, and it therefore appears to be improper for the governor to fire members of the lieutenant governor's staff, the opinion states.

"The Legislature has attempted to give the lieutenant governor the greatest autonomy consistent with the Organic Act, and this must include control of his own staff, including their pay," Troutman wrote.

The central theme of the legal opinion is that local lawmakers can pass laws that require the governor and lieutenant governor to do things, provided those laws do not conflict with the island's Organic Act.

The governor stands by his actions, according to the governor's office.

"The governor's authorities have already been affirmed by the courts and the actions taken over the past two weeks are well within the governor's organic authority," said governor's spokesman Shawn Gumataotao.

Troutman prepared the legal opinion at the request of Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan, who has objected to the governor's decision to fire Moylan's Chief of Staff Bertha Duenas, who also runs the clearinghouse, and staff assistant Raymond Blas.

Camacho said he fired Duenas for a number of incidents and fired Blas for allegedly violating his policy against double-dipping, which means collecting a retirement check as well as a government paycheck. Camacho signed an executive order to reorganize the clearinghouse and place its grant-monitoring responsibilities with other government agencies. He said the clearinghouse is redundant and has delayed the processing of federal assistance.

Gumataotao said the governor's executive order to reorganize the clearinghouse continues to be followed.

"The functions of federal grant application and review have been returned to the appropriate agencies as directed," he said.

Duenas and Blas continue to show up for work at the lieutenant governor's office, although they have not been paid for the days they worked after the governor terminated them. They were terminated March 25, and Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan asked for a legal opinion two days later.

"The opinion issued by (Compiler of Laws) Troutman is reassuring, and we're guided by it," the lieutenant governor said. "Certainly, we'd like to have this issue addressed without having to take further action, and we hope that the government as a whole is guided by this decision so that the business of this government can move forward."

Although the legal opinion appears to support Moylan's position, it has changed nothing in the dispute between the governor and lieutenant governor.

Government agencies continue to divert paperwork away from the clearinghouse at the lieutenant governor's office.

Duenas and Blas have not been paid for any hours beyond the date the governor terminated them.

Before the governor's office issued its response to the legal opinion yesterday, the lieutenant governor said the attorney general's opinion could prompt the governor to reverse his actions.

"If not, then this office would be guided by this opinion, and what further actions we would have to take to ensure the integrity and existence of this office as well as the state clearinghouse and the laws passed by the Guam Legislature," Moylan said.

April 13, 2004

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