Directors' pay increased

Source: Government documents

New hires across the executive branch under Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s new administration will cost the government of Guam more than $11 million in a year and more than $5 million of the salaries are for Adelup.

What changed were the people on the payroll, which is expected of a new administration.

The Guam Daily Post’s request for records under the Freedom of Information Act resulted in the Department of Administration’s recent release of more than 1,000 documents involving personnel and payroll costs.

The documents show the continued hiring of deputy directors and an increase in salary for most directors appointed to lead agencies, among other numbers:

• 152 unclassified appointments or hires outside the Civil Service Commission’s merit-based hiring system;

• 51 limited-term appointments; 

• 24 acting appointments;

• the continued hiring of deputy directors;

• 283 received salary increments for classified employees; and

• 34 promotions. 

There also were 159 amendments – which covered a number of different issues including what looked like name changes and other things that couldn't be determined as there were a number of boxes with redacted contents. 

The executive hires were throughout the agencies as well as at Adelup, according to the personnel action plans.

Adelup spokeswoman Janela Carrera said the hiring is not unusual because of the change of the administration.

"As with all new administrations, the transition of the Office of the Governor necessitated the on-boarding of new personnel in the last few months," she stated.

The personnel action plans also included separations from the government: 

• 124 terminations;

• 89 resignations;

• 21 retirements; and

• 6 deaths.

Resignations and terminations totaled about $5.1 million in annual salaries.

Some of the documents for political hires included amendments and salary adjustments that showed raises for Cabinet members as well as Adelup staffers.

At the Department of Youth Affairs, the deputy director's salary in one document shows $65,600, but that's increased when Krisinda Aguon is appointed as the acting director for the agency. Another document terminates the acting appointment effective Jan. 19 and she's returned to the original salary. But in an amendment dated Feb. 26, the deputy's salary is increased to $79,000 effective Jan. 7. This salary is what the previous DYA director made.

Documents show the DYA director was initially appointed with a salary of $70,873 effective Jan. 21. But two amendments, the first dated in February and the second in March – and both effective Jan. 21, show a salary of $91,402.

At Adelup, special assistant Robert Lizama was first appointed with a $65,000 salary, but a series of amendments and pay adjustments leave him with a salary of $75,000. Staff assistant Agusto Aflague was hired at $45,000 a year. But a personnel action dated Feb. 1 showed an amendment to his salary to $55,000 effective Jan. 7. Another personnel action, dated March 7, shows a pay adjustment to the same level of $55,000 but effective Jan. 25.

Carrera said these personnel actions "reflect the salaries at which these new employees were initially hired."

However, particularly for the DYA director and deputy, being the two examples sent to Adelup, Carrera said the initial salaries "did not reflect the salaries originally offered to them." That being the case, she said, "corrections were made to reflect the salaries agreed upon when (Melanie) Brennan and (Krisinda) Aguon were first appointed."

DYA isn't the only area where annual salaries were increased – some by as much as $20,000. The Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Department of Public Health and Social Services and other agencies also show increases in salaries for directors and deputy directors.

Carrera said the salaries for Cabinet members fall within the salary rates in the Competitive Wage Act.

The Post asked if the increased salaries fall in line with the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration's campaign promises to be fiscally responsible.

"Directors and deputy directors were hired at salary levels commensurate to their qualifications, years of experience, and their overall contribution to improving government services. This fulfills our commitment to being fiscally responsible by maximizing the government's ability to hire people whose value have real outcomes – better efficiencies, increased cash collection, and improved services to our people," she stated.

Salary increments

Last year, senators had instituted a series of cost-cutting measures in the fiscal year 2019 budget, including the elimination of deputy director positions, a hiring freeze and a freeze on salary increments for classified employees.

Ultimately, then-Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, opined that the elimination of deputy director positions and the hiring freeze were inorganic and unenforceable. She opined that the Legislature was within its authority to restrict salary increments.

The Post sent some examples of salary increments – some of which dated back to 2018 and a few further back to 2017 – to the Department of Administration to ask why, if salary increments were frozen, were salary increments still being processed.

"There are effective dates that go back to 2018 for some of the salary increase because this was the year that the employees that you are referring to should have received their salary increments," DOA responded via email.

"Salary increments are among the documents that we provided because the freeze on salary increments did not suspend the performance evaluations. All department heads are still obligated to complete the performance evaluations of their employees in order to document performance. Salary increments are processed to document the approved performance evaluations for those who received a satisfactory rating or higher."

DOA officials said in line with the budget law, "non-compensable salary increments are entered for record purposes, but are not paid out."

"Employees are still compensated at the lower rate. Should salary increments be restored in Fiscal Year 2020, employees would be placed at the proper step prospectively from the date which is approved. This will be without retroactive pay unless otherwise specified in law," officials stated.

In one example, a Department of Agriculture employee whose evaluation hadn't been completed by a supervisor in several years, had a promotion in 2015 followed by two years of salary increments. The documents showed effective dates going back to September for 2015, 2016 and 2017.  

Department of Agriculture acting Director Chelsa Muna-Brecht said the employee had successfully applied for a promotion. However, because the supervisor hadn't performed an evaluation, proper compensation wasn't applied.

Muna-Brecht said she had a few people in similar situations. She has scheduled supervisors and managers to undergo training to ensure they understand how and when to perform evaluations.

Guam Solid Waste Authority also had seven salary increments. Controller Katherine Kakigi said those employees' salary increments were being recorded to allow the employees' future salary increments to reflect their time on the job and the evaluations completed by their supervisors for years when salary increments are frozen.