Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Mar. 30) - Legislation introduced by Democratic Senators Judith Won Pat and Benjamin Cruz would require elected and appointed government officials to undergo ethics training.

This basic grounding in ethics, which will also cover Guam laws regarding lobbying, procurement and contracting, as well as personnel policy, government finance and fiduciary responsibility, is a step in the right direction. The training will at least ensure that elected and appointed officials are familiar with the rules and laws they are supposed to follow.

One area that was left out and must be included is a thorough grounding in First Amendment legislation, specifically the federal Freedom of Information Act and Guam's Sunshine Act. Government of Guam officials need to be versed in this area to ensure that the people have open access to government information, and aren't wrongly blocked from data that fall under the statutes.

Also, ethics training will ultimately prove pointless without a functional arm to police and enforce ethics rules and laws, namely the Guam Ethics Commission, which was originally created by law in 1986. The Judicial Council was supposed to nominate 15 people for the commission and the governor had to appoint seven of those nominees. None of this ever happened.

Last year, Attorney General Douglas Moylan filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get the Judicial Council to make nominations, but the court ruled the commission was technically abolished because it was inactive for more than a year. Bill 382, which re-established the commission, was signed into law by Gov. Felix Camacho on January 1, and it removes the Judicial Council's participation and requires the governor to appoint seven board members.

As yet, however, there is no Guam Ethics Commission, and the governor's office hasn't announced any nominations. Until this commission becomes active and actually takes actions to live up to its mandate, any ethics training for GovGuam officials, while a good idea, is fairly pointless.

Camacho can change that by appointing people who will take their duty seriously and make the Guam Ethics Commission a functional body that holds GovGuam officials accountable.

March 31, 2005

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