GUAM GOVERNOR LIFTS GAG ORDER ON PUBLIC WORKERS

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Calvo seeks transparency, allows media dialogue

By Oyaol Ngirairikl HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 9, 2011) - The Calvo administration sent a notice to all government of Guam employees about disclosing public information and sharing their opinions with media.

The transparency directive, issued by the governor’s chief of staff, Frank Torres, notes the Calvo administration’s stance on maintaining transparency and accountability and providing public information.

"We understand certain policies may have existed placing ‘gag orders’ on government employees," the notice states. "Gov. Eddie Calvo clearly is opposed to any policy that pressures government employees into silence for fear of reprisal from the administration. We are committed to the free and responsible flow of public information and the truth."

Troy Torres, the governor’s spokesman, said the administration wanted to send the message that it’s OK for all government employees to share their opinions. He noted that various opinions could contribute to discussions and even help find resolutions to problems the agency, the government or the community as a whole faces.

Torres added that anyone who is having problems getting public information from an agency can "let us know so we can correct the situation."

He noted that this is also part of an overall effort to improve the government’s customer service and to hold agency heads accountable for implementing the goals and objectives of the Governor’s Blueprint 2020.

"We needed to let them know that we are a transparent administration, that we want the public to know what we’re doing, what the challenges are, and what the solutions are," he said. "We also want to make sure that if factual information is released that it is a public document, is public information and is accurate."

Torres said, from day one, the governor told the cabinet that if their agencies had any existing gag orders, whether formal or one that has been practiced, they should be repealed and employees told that they can share their opinions without fear of retribution. If employees feel they are being targeted because of information they shared, they can call the administration’s Office of Communications.

"We want to know if any employee is being mistreated, but we’re confident our cabinet members will not disrespect employees like that," Torres said. "They are a group of professionals who share Gov. Calvo’s call for transparency and accountability. We are completely opposed to raising any climate of fear in the agencies. We want employees to know we respect the diversity of opinions we all have."

According to the Calvo administration’s notice, which is effective immediately, all previous policies on communicating with reporters are replaced by the following:

Requests for public documents should be honored as quickly as possible. Public documents should be furnished as soon as an agency is able to provide it. Employees must exercise due diligence by verifying with their director that the document they are about to release is a public document.

Requests for public information should be coordinated responsibly and honored as quickly as possible. If a government employee is asked to provide public information, or for facts that are generated under a government program or purview, the employee should:

Let the reporter or the requester know that the information must be verified before it is released;

Inform their respective agency director or public information officer of the request;

Allow their director to decide who within the agency will provide the response and whether the information requested is public information according to the law;

Ensure the person or the agency responding has the knowledge and authority to discuss the topic in question. For example, the Guam Contractors Licensing Board should not be commenting on alien labor processing fees. Such comments should be handled by the administrator of that branch -- the Director of Labor, or whomever the Director of Labor deems appropriate.

Discuss with their director or public information officer issues, particularly those that could significantly effect operations of the government or the governor’s policy initiatives. In turn, agency directors or public information officers must inform the governor’s Director of Communications.

It is the government employee’s choice to share their opinions with reporters. This must be done in a way that does not interrupt workflow. The employee must also let the reporter know that their opinion doesn’t necessarily represent their agency or the government of Guam. The release of any information representing the agency or the government must be factual and responsible and must follow this policy, according to the directive.

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