Kudos to The Guam Daily Post! Sunday’s editorial, entitled “Government transparency needed now more than ever,” was right on the mark. As the editorial so aptly put it, “There are ways to get things done in this government without limiting the people’s knowledge of their government’s actions.” Unfortunately for us, the governor cranked out two executive orders that not only dramatically limited our knowledge of our government’s actions but even attempted what amounts to a “hostile takeover” of the Legislature.
Executive Oder 2020-06 suspends seven sections of the Open Government Law, including the sections called Action Voided plus Penalties and Court Jurisdiction. This means serious violations of the law, like illegal executive sessions to raise salaries, can’t be stopped or punished. That executive order also eliminated public notice requirements which the governor characterized as “bureaucracy.” The governor created a situation allowing secret meetings that would result in criminal prosecution were it not for her executive order.
The governor doubled down in Executive Oder 2020-07, acting ultra vires of her Organic Act authority by ordering that the Legislature can transact business with only one senator present in the session hall. So, with a couple of strokes of her pen, the governor enabled regulatory chicanery, destroyed the public's right to know what its government is doing and violated the doctrine of separation of powers by invading the province of the Legislature.
These are grave matters which not only are insulting to the people of Guam and their Legislature but also create the opportunity for great mischief. As serious as the two executive orders are, even more serious is the apparent mentality of a governor who so easily embraces such dictatorial power.
The new coronavirus threatens us all. Social distancing and commercial lockdown must be endured and accepted. But gutting the Open Government Law and disrespecting the independence of the Legislature can never be accepted, even in emergent circumstances, if avoidable. The Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the Guam Election Commission have demonstrated that this is possible.
In times like this, the governor would have been well-advised to carefully guard the credibility which she squandered with her executive orders. A good place to start the rehabilitation of her credibility would be for the governor to deep-six the offending executive orders, lest we think she intends that shutting down the public's right to know will be the new normal.
Robert Klitzkie is a former senator and currently the host of the talk radio show “Tall Tales” on 93.3 FM