The good news is more people are now paying attention to or are more aware of Guam's Open Government Law, which among other things forbids closed-door and secret government meetings when decisions involving bonuses and pay raises are discussed.
Guam's Open Government Law also requires government boards and commissions to keep records – including transcripts and an audio recording – of what was discussed in these meetings. The audio recording of each meeting shall be provided to the Office of Public Accountability within seven calendar days after the meeting, the Open Government Law requires.
And if the topics of these meetings require discussions behind closed doors, including when a legal matter is at issue, the minutes of these meetings should be preserved and made available to anyone among members of the public who asks for the records or transcripts six months after the closed-door meeting was held. It would take a judge's order for a government board, commission or agency to withhold the release of these records.
This issue of government transparency or secrecy has come to light following the Consolidated Commission on Utilities' denial of requests for the release of records of a closed-door meeting on bonuses and pay raises held in November 2018. We applaud CCU Commissioner Simon Sanchez, who recently said the recordings of the meeting will be releasable in less than two weeks – by May 27 – when the six-month confidentiality period runs out. However, CCU Chairman Joey Duenas said he's "not comfortable" releasing the records. He prefers going to court before the records are released.
We hope the rest of the commissioners agree with Sanchez. They seem to be aware of the personal monetary fine they face if they violate the Open Government Law, in addition to facing the risk of a misdemeanor charge.
The Open Government Law must be respected by those holding public office. At least one recent judge in a new order on another government agency isn't pleased with a particular agency on the brink of being held in violation of the law.
Just this past Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Anita Sukola, in an order on the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority's continued refusal to release the transcript of a crucial April 26, 2018, board meeting that may be related to the airport's selection of a duty-free retail concession contractor in a $125 million contract, signaled she has lost patience with the airport's failure to release the public records.
Sukola's May 14 order states: "The court finds that GIAA's lack of due diligence and candor was a deliberate strategy to avoid compliance with the Open Government Law. The court will not allow GIAA to act in bad faith and yet achieve its goal of keeping the transcript sealed. To ensure future compliance with the (Open Government Law), the court finds that the appropriate sanction for GIAA's conduct is the production of the April 26 transcript."
Sukola has scheduled a June 27 hearing for the airport to explain, according to Sukola, "why it should not be held in contempt."
The public needs an open and transparent government. If there's nothing to hide, what's the problem with releasing records to the public?