GUAM LAWMAKERS CASH IN ON UNUSED LEAVE

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 6) - Although there was no official process in place for senators to record personal days or vacations when they took them, senators from the 27th Guam Legislature are scheduled to receive checks totaling more than $105,400 for "unused" annual leave.

Members of the Guam Legislature are entitled to annual leave, but only two of the 15 lawmakers -- Senators Robert Klitzkie and Jesse Lujan -- reported taking any leave during the last two years. The remaining 13 lawmakers are scheduled to receive lump-sum checks for the full amount of their leave -- as much as 39 days of pay. According to the Legislature, the amount of accrued annual leave varies, depending on the number of years of government service for each senator. Following are the hours of leave accrued by members of the last Legislature, as well as the gross pay for those hours.

*The lump-sum check for this lawmaker already has been picked up, according to the speaker's office.

The senators from the last Legislature are scheduled to receive checks totaling more than $105,400 for "unused" annual leave, even though there was no official process in place for senators to record personal days or vacations when they took them.

As of this week, nine senators or former senators had picked up lump-sum checks for their unused leave, according to the speaker's office.

Most senators could cash out all of their leave as unused even though many were clearly off island during the past couple of years for family vacations, medical treatment or other personal reasons.

Only two lawmakers signed for leave during the last term, by adapting and using leave forms that were intended for use by legislative employees.

Senators Robert Klitzkie, R-Yigo, signed for annual leave, used it all up and will not receive a lump-sum check.

Senators Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, signed for about a week's worth of leave during his term and is scheduled to receive a check of more than $7,300 for his unused leave.

Klitzkie signed all of the lines on his leave forms, as employee, supervisor and appointing authority, and Lujan said he signed the employee line on his leave forms.

Klitzkie noted that he still attended legislative session during the time he was on leave.

"As a public official (as opposed to a public employee) I am accountable only to you, not an employee who can grant or deny leave," Klitzkie said, quoting from a statement on his office Web site.

Lujan said lawmakers are responsible for working round-the-clock, but said he signed for leave whenever his activities were more personal than work-related.

Klitzkie and Lujan are among the co-sponsors of Bill 2, introduced this week by Speaker Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, which would make lawmakers ineligible for annual leave. They currently are ineligible for sick leave.

Forbes yesterday said senators should not be allowed to earn paid annual leave for the same reason they are no longer allowed to earn paid sick leave.

"Annual leave presumes that you have supervisors who are capable of granting you leave. A senator is without a supervisor and a senator isn't paid on an hourly basis," Forbes said. "They don't keep set hours, so why is it necessary to keep annual leave?" Forbes said the issue of eliminating leave has come up before, but it never had enough support in the Legislature until now. "I'm certain that the bill will happen this time," he said.

When asked whether there is any process for senators to sign for annual leave in the meantime, Forbes said, "Not really. Senator Klitzkie was very creative in how he did it, to zero it out. ... Since annual leave is so illogical for senators, the whole normal process is strained, if nothing else. That just underscores how foolish it is for us to have leave in the first place."

Forbes said he did not sign for annual leave during his last term because he was unaware there was any way for senators to do it. Forbes said signing for leave also would imply that annual leave is something that applies to senators -- something he disagrees with.

When asked whether he plans to pick up the check for his unused leave, Forbes said he has not picked it up yet because he has strong misgivings about doing so.

He said others in the Legislature have similar concerns and also have not picked up their checks.

January 7, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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