Court requires disclosure of social media communications in double pay case

FRONT LINE: More than a dozen Department of Public Health and Social Services medical personnel conduct COVID-19 testing at the Governor Joseph Flores Memorial Park on Thursday morning. Legislation to pay double pay to essential workers could cost from $4.5 million to $18 million or higher. Post file photo

The Superior Court of Guam has mandated Attorney General Leevin Camacho to turn over requested documents related to communications about government of Guam pay, according to attorney Thomas Fisher.

The AG has not yet responded.

Fisher is legal counsel to Guam Police Department Officer Steve Topasna and other essential workers who have sued to get double pay for the time worked during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

They lost the case at the Superior Court but have since filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Guam.

On May 26, Fisher submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the attorney general's office, seeking communications between that office and the Office of the Governor relating to employee pay. He also requested all communications among employees at the attorney general's office related to the payment of GovGuam employees.

"Those communications extend to communications on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other similar platforms," stated a release from Fisher announcing the lower court's latest decision.

He filed suit against the AG in mid-June over the nondisclosure of certain information resulting from his May request.

At the time, Camacho said Fisher was trying to access private conversations that neither FOIA laws nor transparency principals require government employees to give up their right to privacy.

"The AG must know that public records created on WhatsApp or similar forms of communications are subject to the Sunshine Reform Act. If government employees are conducting government business on WhatsApp or similar forms of communications, the public has the right to know and inspect these documents," Fisher stated in his release.

"The OAG has admitted that government of Guam business is conducted on WhatsApp. In fact, the OAG responded to the Sunshine Law request having reviewed and identified thousands of records but, provided only four-redacted pages of WhatsApp communications. If in this process we discover that employees have deleted or destroyed public records on WhatsApp or similar forms of communications, we intend to seek criminal and civil remedies."

In addition to requiring the AG to disclose documents requested by Fisher, the alternative writ of mandate from the Superior Court has required the AG to appear before the court on July 23, either to demonstrate his compliance or show why he does not need to comply.


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