Just when some of the members of our ratepaying public had given up hope that someone in authority would have the courage to call out the Guam Power Authority's and Guam Waterworks Authority's executive managers' bonuses and raises – which had been discussed in detail behind closed doors – our elected attorney general came through.
Attorney General Leevin Camacho on Thursday morning stated that GWA and GPA managers who received bonuses and or raises during closed-door meeting discussions should pay back those financial perks.
That's a win for the ratepayers who have felt that GWA's and GPA's top managers didn't deserve raises and bonuses amid the higher rates for water and the increased cost of power.
Many of our ratepayers cannot forget that GWA has failed to significantly reduce the yearslong massive loss of water supply in part due to leaks, and that even a credit rating agency has expressed concern with Guam residents' ability to stretch their budget to afford water. Additionally, GPA's temporary loss of nearly 20 percent of the island's power-generating capacity after a 2015 fire at the Cabras power plant, and the agency's continued reliance on mostly fossil fuels have not exactly given the public much enthusiasm to support the raises and bonuses for top managers at both utilities.
The Office of the Attorney General reviewed the minutes of the Nov. 27, 2018, Consolidated Commission on Utilities meeting and determined that discussions around salary adjustments for key GPA and GWA officials, held behind executive session, violated the Open Government Law.
"The Open Government Law prohibits such discussions and provides in relevant part, 'Under no circumstances shall a public agency hold an executive or closed meeting to discuss salaries, salary levels or salary adjustments of any employee or officer. All such discussions must be held in public meeting and any minutes shall be kept and opened to the public,'" Camacho stated.
The next step
Now the next step is for the AG to look into how to hold the Consolidated Commission on Utilities commissioners accountable.
A little more than two years ago, Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority board members were charged in court for allegedly holding secret meetings that should have been public.
Will this case arise to a similar level that led to the filing of charges against some of GHURA's now-former board members?
Only time will tell.
We also urge the AG to review meetings at other revenue-generating agencies, such as the Guam airport agency, Guam Visitors Bureau and other government agencies, to ensure they too complied with the government transparency law. It doesn't hurt to do some digging.
Through the AG's response to the issue, some of the members of our taxpaying and ratepaying public's hope for a responsive government has been restored, for now.
As one of our many commenters voicing support for the AG's action stated: "I thought he was going to make a political decision but he made the right decision. Good job!"