Ethics panel may take complaints in 2020

'Do it right': Shannon Murphy testifies before the Guam Legislature on her nomination to the Guam Ethics Commission Tuesday, April 30. Murphy, the commission chairwoman, said the panel might start receiving complaints by August 2020. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The Guam Ethics Commission is still in the process of obtaining funding, and if everything goes as planned, the commission might start receiving complaints by August 2020. 

Despite a nearly two-decade-old law re-establishing the commission, this is the first time the group has been constituted. However, commissioners learned during their inaugural meeting in September that there is no funding to support the creation of a new agency. 

And creating a new agency is essentially what the commission is trying to do, according to Shannon Murphy, the new commission chairwoman.

‘Do it right and be frugal’

"We want to do it right and be frugal. We're just going to take our time and take it slow and make sure we're doing it the best possible way and with the least costs for the people of Guam," Murphy said. 

The commission has already submitted its proposed budget to the Office of the Governor.

According to Janela Carrera, the governor's spokeswoman, the budget is under informal review and the commission will likely be asked to submit the budget to the legislative appropriations chairman as well. 

For fiscal year 2020, Murphy said the commission is seeking about $223,000. This would be to start the agency, create a website, launch a public education campaign and advertise for meetings, and it will likely change in proceeding years, she added.

At this point, however, the commission is unsure of how much staff it will ultimately need. 

Campaign to educate public

”We're thinking we'll definitely need an executive director and an administrative officer and an attorney, and at least one investigator but we just don't know how many complaints we're gonna get, so we want to start small and then see what happens from there," Murphy said. 

But before it begins taking complaints, the commission believes it needs to educate the public on what it can investigate. 

"It's not stuff against the law, these are ethics things. In the ethics law, there are specific things government employees are supposed to adhere to. We want to make sure everybody's clear about that before we start taking in complaints, just to save ourselves a lot of time and energy,” Murphy added. “But we're not only accepting complaints. We're also going to be able to investigate things we see or hear about.”

Senators want commission to review ethics law

Lawmakers have also asked the commission to review the law and suggest potential updates, she added. 

According to a plan for the year, the commissioners are to complete ethics training as well as set priorities, standard operating procedures and job descriptions between November and December. 

The commission hopes to have funding provided and begin hiring staff by January 2020. The public education campaign is to be created between then and March 2020, and implemented between April and July 2020. 

The commission's website, forms and procedures to accept complaints are to be developed between February and July 2020.

By August 2020, the commission hopes to be accepting complaints.

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