Guam Port Employee At Heart Of Controversy Identified

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Employed as spokeswoman, previously worked for former governor

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 26, 2012) – The Port Authority of Guam employee at the center of a firing controversy is a former spokeswoman for a former governor, who filed a workman's compensation request after she slipped and fell last year.

For the last three years, Bernadette Meno worked as a spokeswoman for the Port, but before that she worked in the communications office of former Gov. Felix Camacho.

Meno is identified in travel request document packets that were flagged by Gov. Eddie Calvo's office, kicking off a corruption investigation that last led to the controversial firings. The Pacific Daily News obtained copies of the two travel request packets late last week.

The documents state that Meno sustained an on-the-job injury when she slipped and fell in September 2011. The packets ask for funding to send her to Hawaii for back surgery, along with an escorting family member, Audrey Meno Limtiaco.

The government expense for the trip -- air fare, per diem and medical expenses -- would have been about $77,000. The majority of that expense, about $66,000, would have paid for Meno's medical expenses, according to the documents.

On Monday, attorney Curtis Van De Veld, who represents Meno, said his client couldn't have acted inappropriately because she had no influence over the travel request documents.

"The travel request was based upon a determination and diagnosis of the Port's retained physician," Van De Veld said. "None of the paperwork was ever completed by Bernadette. It was all internally transmitted between the Port and its physician. So Bernadette had no knowledge of the content of the documents."

Both travel request packets are signed by several division heads within the Port, plus recently fired Port General Manager Mary Torres. Torres is the sister of former Gov. Camacho, who previously employed Meno as a spokeswoman.

The other signatures belong to Personnel Services Administrator Francine Rocio, Financial Affairs Controller Jose Guevara III, Corporate Services Manager Vivian Leon and Deputy General Manager Anisia Terlaje.

Six unidentified Port employees were fired alongside Torres, who has called the terminations "politically motivated." Calvo has said he doesn't give Torres' allegations "much credence."

These travel request packets were flagged by Franklin Arriola, Calvo's chief of staff. Arriola reviews all such requests as a cost-cutting measure.

Arriola said last week that he questioned both the purpose and the amount of the travel requests, so he asked his staff to look into the matter. That bounced the requests back to Port leadership, who started an investigation that ultimately led to the terminations, Arriola said.

'Self-insured'

Normally, the medical treatment for an injured employee such as Meno would be covered by workers' compensation insurance, but the Port doesn't have any.

Since 1985, the Port has been "self-insured," board member Christine Baleto said during a recent Port board meeting. Guam law requires agencies to have workers' compensation insurance, but instead the Port just pays directly to its employees if they are injured.

Medical records

When interviewed yesterday, Van De Veld said it was possible that Meno would sue the Port over an invasion of privacy.

The attorney said the Port released personal medical information about Meno and her child when they sent notice of adverse actions to the terminated employees.

This is a violation of federal law, with the "possibility of civil and criminal penalties," Van De Veld said. "There may be a lawsuit," he said.

Mike Phillips, an attorney for the Port, couldn't be reached for comment.

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