The problems at the Department of Corrections have been many. There have been cases involving smuggling of drugs into prison. A shortage of manpower, low morale, questions about the capability of its leadership to handle one crisis after another, and the erroneous releases of detainees or prisoners have plagued DOC.
The Guam Daily Post confirmed that the governor was meeting on Tuesday morning with the department's rank and file. We tried to get an update from the governor on how the meeting went and what actions were being considered.
The problems at DOC have had an impact on how our community members feel about their safety.
When the wrong prisoners are released and DOC doesn't tell the public until much later, that is a major public safety issue. When prisoners are incarcerated to keep them off drug dealing but they still have access to drugs that were smuggled into the prison compound, that is a public issue. When an indicted mayor, who was a court marshal, is accused of using his connections to get some detainees released, that is a public concern.
When DOC officers say they are working dual shifts because of a lack of funding and manpower – putting their own safety at risk – that is a public safety issue.
So when we asked questions about the outcome of the closed-door meeting, we expected the governor - who ran in part on a public transparency and public safety platform - to understand we were asking questions because of the public concerns.
The Post didn't expect the governor to spill all of what the governor said was sensitive information. There is an expectation that she'd share what the public needs to know at this point and that she'd offer some sort of reassurance that she has some solutions in mind.
Instead, the governor's approach to the Post was abrupt.
Before our reporter could even ask, the governor said: "I don't want to comment."
"How did the meeting go?" the Post reporter asked.
"I don't really want to comment. It's sensitive stuff," said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
The Post asked further: "When the guys came out they didn't want to comment either. Some gave a thumbs up, so it must have been positive?"
"It was a good informational meeting, yes," the governor said.
"A lot of it had to do with those letters?" the Post asked, referring two two recent anonymous letters detailing some of the issues at DOC, including questions about the current management whom the governor had appointed.
"I don't want to comment on that," the governor said.
"Was there anything about what progress is going to be made?" the Post asked.
"Nick, I don't want to comment," the governor said to senior reporter Nick Delgado in frustration. "So don't ask anymore questions. It's really very sensitive information, so I will deal with it as appropriate."
"Is there any information that isn't sensitive that you can discuss?" the Post asked.
"No. There was none," she said, as she got into the back seat of her official vehicle.
How the governor reacted to general questions over an issue of public importance was a surprise.
It's not easy to be governor and put on the spot. But that's part of what she and other elected officials signed up for, even when it isn't a feel-good story.