Guam AG’s Office Allegedly Interfered In Port Controversy

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Guam AG’s Office Allegedly Interfered In Port Controversy Senator claims AGO ‘distracted’ focus of civil service commission

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb. 26, 2013) – Senator Rory Respicio yesterday accused Guam’s Attorney General’s Office (AGO) of "political interference" with its attempt to suppress documents filed with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) pertinent to the appeals of six Port Authority of Guam (PAG) employees who got the axe in December.

In a letter to Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas, Respicio said the AGO’s alleged attempt to interfere with the CSC process "may be some form of collusion to influence the outcome of the appeals filed by the terminated employees."

"This unusual memo from your office inserted into a personnel matter appears to be an attempt to distract CSC members from focusing strictly on the merits of the appeals," Respicio told Rapadas.

The senator was referring to Assistant Attorney General Nelson Werner’s Feb. 21 memo requesting CSC Director Tony Lamorena to withhold any documents related to the dismissal of six PAG employees.

Werner told Lamorena the six employees were the subject of AGO’s ongoing criminal investigation involving the processing of the worker compensation claim filed by PAG former Marketing Administrator Bernadette Meno, who now works at Respicio’s office.

Carlina Charfauros, spokesperson for the AGO, explained that Werner’s request for CSC to withhold certain information was made "so as not to jeopardize a possible criminal case."

Respicio, however, noted that PAG is the party directed by the CSC to produce discovery of its documents to the petitioners.

"In summary, the AGO does not ask the CSC to not reveal documents it receives itself. I am thinking that the port has not yet produced any documents to the petitioners, thereby making it impossible for these petitioners to continue their CSC appeals properly without the needed materials," Respicio said.

‘Politically intrusive’

PAG dismissed Meno and five others, accusing them of falsifying documents related to the compensation claim. The AGO has launched the investigation in response to former Sen. Judith Guthertz’s request made before the end of her term in December.

Under AGO investigation besides Meno are Frances Arriola, Francine Roccio, Josette Javelosa, Jose Guevara and Vivian Leon.

Respicio maintained the AGO’s actions were "politically intrusive and obstructive to the six workers seeking a remedy through the CSC."

Citing conflict of interest, Respicio also asked Rapadas to immediately remove Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco from any involvement in the case.

Tydingco – the chief prosecutor in the AGO investigation – is the brother of PAG board chairman Dan Tydingco, who was allegedly behind the "political interference" and "corruption" at PAG.

"Many employees are afraid to speak up and suffer the same fate as their co-workers," Respicio said. "There have also been documented reports of witness tampering, political innuendo, corruption, and whistle-blowing retaliation."

While previously mum on the PAG personnel issue because Meno is now his employee, Respicio said he eventually decided to take up the cudgels for the six fired employees.

"This latest attempt by certain individuals in your office working with the port’s chairman and legal counsel, to interfere with this case and restrict the employees’ rights to fair and impartial due process through the CSC, requires me to stand publicly against any form of threats, intimidation or coercion against government workers," Respicio told Rapadas.

"It’s unfortunate that these employees have to deal with the stress of losing a job and income, and yet have to find money from their own wiped-out financial means. Now these families also have to hire an attorney ... all the while keeping their heads up and their faith strong because it is their steadfast belief that the truth is on their side," Respicio said.

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