GUAM FLAP SHOWS NEED FOR ETHICS BODY

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (August 26, 2009) - An ethics complaint filed by one senator against another lawmaker has shown the need for the government to make use of a long-ignored law that requires a Guam Ethics Commission.

The Guam Legislature is setting up an Ethics Committee to review a harassment complaint filed by Republican Senator Telo Taitague against Democratic Senator Matt Rector.

Speaker Judith Won Pat appointed Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Senators Adolpho Palacios, Tina Muña-Barnes and Judith Guthertz, though Guthertz has declined the appointment. Minority Leader Senator Eddie Calvo appointed Senators Frank Blas Jr. and Jim Espaldon.

The committee wouldn’t be necessary if Chapter 15 of Article 3 of Volume 4 of the Guam Code Annotated had been implemented. It requires the governor to appoint seven members to the Guam Ethics Commission. Members can’t be employed by the local government, nor can any member of their immediate family, and they must be confirmed by the Legislature.

The law was passed in 1996. But 13 years later, the commission is unrealized.

The people have the right to expect their elected and appointed government officials meet standards of conduct and are held accountable. And the commission also would allow employees of the government to report inappropriate, unethical behavior without fear of repercussion.

The Guam Ethics Commission was intended serve as a watchdog of government behavior, one that can investigate complaints and enforce accountability measures.

The people of Guam have waited far too long for the commission to be established and made active. The governor should make it a priority to begin appointing members of the Guam Ethics Commission.

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