Guam Vice Speaker Calls For Criminal Charges Over Illegal Raises

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Cruz says administration officials should be held accountable

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno and Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 5, 2016) – The controversial retroactive pay raises for 107 Adelup office staffers should lead to the filing of a criminal charge because the attorney general has determined those were illegal, said Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz on Tuesday.

The raises, which were paid in December 2014 but were retroactive to a year for most of the staffers, cost Guam taxpayers more than $800,000.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson issued a legal opinion last month stating the payments were illegal because retroactive pay raises are only allowed if authorized by a specific law.

"If it is against the law, then there are criminal sanctions," said Cruz. "Who those charges can be held against? I suppose somebody should be charged."

Such violation is considered a misdemeanor and carries a possible penalty of up to a year in prison if the person or persons charged is convicted under Guam law.

"I am not asking for capital punishment," he said. "The local statute says it is a misdemeanor, so it is just to make a point that it cannot and should not be done."

Cruz said he expects the AG’s office to appoint a special prosecutor and bring charges forward.

Troy Torres, Adelup’s policy adviser, said Tuesday, the administration would "welcome any sort of inquiry or investigation by anybody."

The Pacific Daily News talked to Cruz Tuesday, a day after similar requests for interviews with Gov. Eddie Calvo and Barrett-Anderson were made.

As of press time, the PDN hadn’t received an answer on whether the governor will agree to an interview.

The AG’s office wasn’t ready to make a public announcement on the issue, according to spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros.

Cruz’s decision to take on the issue of illegally paid retroactive pay raises has generated more public support than any other issue he’s dealt with in his nine years as a senator, he said. Cruz is a former Superior Court of Guam judge and former Supreme Court of Guam chief justice.

"I am not asking for capital punishment. Do something that the law said you should do. So, I am hoping (the attorney general) can and will do whatever is necessary," Cruz said.

Cruz said he recently met with Barrett-Anderson and was told she wanted to do her due diligence before making her next move on the issue.

"I am also confident that the attorney general is also moving forward. She is doing her due diligence to determine how this is supposed to be done," Cruz said.

Cruz also has met with Office of Public Accountability auditors who have started an audit that will try to determine, in part, whether illegal retroactive pay raises also were approved elsewhere in the executive branch, beyond the offices of the governor and the lieutenant governor.

The governor’s office has stated there was no intent to violate the restriction on retroactive raises. Adelup has previously stated that a "technical glitch" was part of the problem.

Cruz said calling the problem a glitch is contrary to what personnel documents show — signed paper documents that indicate pay raises were approved December 2014 and retroactive to January that year for many of the staffers.

For staffers who were hired after January 2014, their retroactive raises had effective dates during or near their dates of hire, the personnel documents show.

Cruz said the governor and his advisers may have been able to say, back in December 2014, that the retroactive pay raises weren’t intended to violate the law.

However, after the attorney general determined last month the retroactive raises were illegal, the governor’s office’s actions now can be investigated for possible criminal intent, Cruz said.

After the AG’s legal opinion, the governor’s office had about 60 of the 107 staffers receive checks in amounts similar to their retroactive pay raises and had the checks endorsed back to the government of Guam. The staffers didn’t have to repay the money out of pocket; instead the "repayment" was symbolic.

The AG’s opinion had stated the staffers should pay the money back, or the governor’s office could ask the Legislature to pass legislation for an after-the-fact approval of the retroactive raises.

The governor has called the payments a reward for the staffers’ hard work. He said the staffers helped to improve the quality of life of island residents.

By calling it a bonus, the public was misled, Cruz said, because the personnel documents clearly stated retroactive effective dates for salary increases.

"We’ve responded as many times as the question has been asked," Torres said. "The attorney general has opined ... she understands that Adelup’s intentions were not to give a retroactive pay raise but to give a one-time pay adjustment."

Retroactive pay raises were approved for senators, Cabinet officials and the governor and lieutenant governor via legislation that became law in 2014.

Cruz said he wants to make it "very, very clear" that the legislation came from the governor’s office, and that the governor’s office could have included the staffers in the legislation to make it legal and public.

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