Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Jan. 6) – The decision several years ago by government of Guam officials to spend money meant for the Retirement Fund on other operational costs was not only wrong, it was illegal.

These choices resulted in millions of dollars of debt owed by Guam Memorial Hospital and the school system to the Retirement Fund. That led to a decision by Retirement Fund officials to cease allowing employees from those agencies to retire. That, in turn, led to a law that allowed the employees to retire, but only after a complicated process that results in delay. There still are employees qualified to retire who can't yet do so.

All these years, the elected officials in the governor's office and the Legislature have ignored the plight of these employees by not taking substantive action to repay the debt. Instead, they plan to use a proposed bond, which has been delayed by legal challenges and which might not even be approved, to pay back what's owed - somewhere down the road.

It must not be forgotten that these same elected officials have been virtually silent on the fact that the government essentially stole money from employees. The silence over this wrongdoing has been deafening.

If a business in the private sector had done something similar, criminal prosecution would have been the result.

In the only substantive action taken in this matter thus far, five certifying officers of the government of Guam recently have been indicted on charges of failing to pay employees' retirement contributions. The question is will the attorney general also seek to hold higher officials accountable, such as senators who were in office at the time, or the current governor? Shouldn't they be held to some degree of accountability for their actions, or lack of action?

Furthermore, why is it that the current crop of elected officials still has done nothing to rectify the situation? They know that the government's diversion of Retirement Fund money was wrong. Continuing to refuse to make good on it is just as wrong.

January 6, 2006

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