GovGuam Staffers Will Start Repaying Illegal Retroactive Raises

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

Governor to introduce bill calling on government to foot the bill

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno and Shawn Raymundo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 18, 2016) – The Calvo administration has acknowledged that the illegally paid retroactive raises for its staffers have become a distraction, so it now agrees to have staffers repay the money.

The administration will begin making salary deductions starting in July, and the repayments will continue through December 2018 when Calvo’s term in office ends, the administration announced Thursday.

But there’s a caveat.

The 107 current and former staffers will be spared having to repay the pay raises, which amount to almost $800,000 if the Legislature passes a measure giving after-the-fact approval.

The administration intends to submit such legislation to lawmakers.

Some of the staffers received pay raises that were retroactive to almost a year. Many of the governor’s staffers are political hires who weren’t authorized to receive pay raises, unlike those who were hired under the local government’s merit system.

"We were trying to create parity between our staff and the other employees in the government, but the attorney general feels mistakes were made in the execution, and this issue is now distracting us from the work we’re trying to do," Chief of Staff Mark Calvo said in a press release. "We’re not willing to sacrifice our agenda just to reach parity for ourselves."

The governor’s office is referring to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014, which made pay adjustments to employees throughout the local government. Adelup employees weren’t included in the original passage of the act. According to the governor’s office, the governor didn’t want his staff to be left out, so he authorized the lump sum payments.

In her legal opinion, Barrett-Anderson also advised Calvo to have the staff repay the money or introduce legislation to legalize the raises.

Up until Thursday, only former Adelup staffers had been instructed to repay their retroactive raises. The administration sent out letters to 38 former employees last month, asking them to set up a repayment plan with the governor’s office.

Following the AG’s legal opinion, the governor’s office authorized an artificial "repayment" process by issuing checks to the remaining employees who then signed the checks back to the government of Guam.

Barrett-Anderson has stressed her opposition to the plan, stating that the plan didn’t correct the violation.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, who was the first to uncover the governor’s salary adjustments after discovering an $800,000 spike in Adelup’s payroll expenses, said he wouldn’t support Calvo’s piece of legislation.

"Asking the Legislature to legitimize these actions retroactively is something I will not support, because it legitimizes what never should have been done in the first place," Cruz wrote in a press release.

The governor, Cruz said, should have called for the staff’s repayment months ago. He also said Adelup complicated the issue with its repayment scheme.

"I appreciate that the governor has finally decided to comply with the attorney general’s opinion, but these steps should have been taken three months ago," he said in the release. "Unfortunately, the repayment scheme executed by Adelup in December 2015 — and its numerous contradictory statements since then — have complicated this issue far beyond the initial act itself."

The AG’s office is in the process of hiring an independent counsel to possibly prosecute the people responsible for the pay raises.

Last Friday, governor’s Chief Legal Counsel Sandra Miller accessed more than 1,000 classified documents produced in the course of the AG’s office investigation into the illegal pay raise issue. She received the evidence during a meeting for attorneys interested in the independent prosecutor contract.

Chief Prosecutor Phil Tydingco, of the AG’s office, explained that the evidence, or discovery, was given to attorneys so they could determine if they have any conflict of interest with the potential case. Adelup officials recognized Miller would have a conflict in the case as she was one of the 107 staffers to receive a raise. Miller, officials said, only wanted to see what sort of documents the AG’s office were handing out.

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