Guam Senators Asked If Governor, Officials Should Face Charges

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

AG yet to decide if it will prosecute over illegal pay increases

By Shawn Raymundo and Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 8, 2016) – While Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson has yet to announce whether she’ll appoint a special prosecutor to continue investigating Adelup’s illegal retroactive pay raises, some lawmakers say the Calvo administration should face prosecution.

The Pacific Daily News asked all 15 senators via email Wednesday whether they believed the governor and members of his administration should be prosecuted for the illegal pay raises.

Out of the 15 lawmakers, 11 replied.

Most didn’t state a direct "yes" or "no," however, they did provide explanations, many of them supporting whatever route the attorney general takes on the issue.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, and Sens. Tom Ada and Nerissa Underwood each responded "yes," while noting that the government of Guam’s anti-retroactive payment statute was clearly broken.

"If an illegal act has been committed, regardless of who the perpetrator is, prosecution should be pursued," Ada wrote in an email. "To do otherwise would be inviting further transgressions."

In November, Cruz noticed a spike of about $800,000 in the gubernatorial office’s payroll expenses during one pay period in December 2014.

Prior to that pay period, payroll costs averaged $210,000. Afterward, payroll expenses averaged $260,000.

Personnel records Adelup provided to Cruz and the PDN through Freedom of Information Act requests showed that many staffers’ raises were authorized in December 2014 but were effective to January 2014.

In a letter written to Calvo last month, Barrett-Anderson stated the pay raises the governor awarded to 107 Adelup staffers in December 2014 were retroactive, which violated the law.

Sen. Brant McCreadie, R-Agana Heights, was the only lawmaker who said Calvo shouldn’t be prosecuted because the governor had already remedied the issue.

"To my knowledge, a mistake has been made and corrected. I believe what Gov. Calvo did was well-intentioned, and I do not believe anyone should be prosecuted," he said.

Barrett-Anderson advised the governor in her letter to have the 107 staffers repay the money or introduce legislation to try to make the raises legal.

As part of a procedural fix, the governor’s office decided to give 60 staffers checks in amounts similar to their retroactive payments.

Those individuals then endorsed the checks back to the government of Guam. None of the staffers have had to repay the money out of their own pocket.

Senators weigh in

Underwood, D-Tamuning, stressed the need for the investigation to continue with a third-party special counsel, who could decide to prosecute the Calvo administration.

"Yes, everybody must be held accountable for misuse of public funds," Underwood wrote.

"We no longer need a war (of) words. We need an independent investigation."

Cruz had stated earlier this week that he recently met with Barrett-Anderson, who, he said, was doing her due diligence in the matter prior to making her next move.

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

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, and Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., D-Dededo, both acknowledged the necessity in continuing the investigation, while also noting their trust in the attorney general to move the issue forward.

"Anyone who willfully intends to commit any illegal act should be held accountable," Rodriguez said.

"I trust our legal and judicial systems. I am certain due process and due diligence will be followed as it relates to this matter."

Sens. Tommy Morrison, Tina Muña Barnes, Rory Respicio and Mary Torres shared similar sentiments, stating that it’s best to leave such decisions regarding prosecution to the attorney general.

"I will leave this matter where it belongs — the attorney general’s office," said Morrison, R-Umatac.

"It wouldn’t be right for elected officials to comment as to what actions the attorney general’s office should or shouldn’t take on this matter."

Republican Sens. Tony Ada, Frank Blas Jr. and James Espaldon, as well as Democratic Sen. Frank Aguon Jr., didn’t respond to PDN emails or calls.

Recollecting $700,000

Since Adelup’s controversial pay raises have been made public, the governor’s office has sent the Legislature a series of Freedom of Information Act requests, in which the Calvo administration raised several allegations of financial mismanagement at the legislative branch.

The administration also announced last month that for the next 11 months it would reduce its monthly budget allotment to the Legislature by roughly $64,000.

Calvo said it was an effort to recollect a supplemental appropriation of $700,000 the administration gave the branch last February.

The administration said it was complying with Barrett-Anderson’s prior advice to not transfer the money because it’s unlawful to appropriate and expend over the appropriation level in a fiscal budget.

Legislative Executive Director Vince Arriola requested the additional funds so they could cover the senators’ retroactive pay raises pursuant to Public Law 32-208.

The law was enacted in November, giving retroactive pay raises to elected and appointed officials.

The Legislature, which has a fiscal 2016 budget of $8.4 million, meaning it is to receive $700,000 a month, already has begun to feel the pinch in funds as they’re forced to cut costs across the board by 8 percent, Arriola said.

"As they say in accounting terms, ‘we’ve sharpened our pencils.’ We’re being more diligent, even though we’ve always been diligent in looking at our expenses," Arriola said. "Because there is in fact an 8-percent reduction, we’ve got to act accordingly."

Arriola said he doesn’t foresee any layoffs occurring as a result of the budget reduction, but said things could change.

"I don’t see any layoffs at this point. Every senator is going to have to review their budgets to take it all the way to the end of the fiscal year and see where we end," Arriola said. "It’s about tightening our belts to make it through the rest of the fiscal year."

Sen. Respicio said the Legislature is exploring its options to address the budget reduction, but at this point, it’s not clear if the lawmaking branch will challenge Calvo and the administration.

"The recourse we’re exploring, we’re still figuring that out," he said.

"We continue to discuss this matter with the entire body and explore whatever options may be available to this government."

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