3 more GPA pay raises rescinded

CUSTOMERS: Customers pay their bills at the Guam Power Authority/Guam Waterworks AUthority Satellite office May 7 in the Julale Shopping Center in Hagåtña. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

The Consolidated Commission on Utilities rescinded pay increases to three more executives at the Guam Power Authority on Tuesday night, rolling them back to levels prior to Nov. 27, 2018 – the day the raises were discussed behind closed doors in violation of the Open Government Law.

Those executives are:

• Assistant General Manager of Administration Beatrice Limtiaco, whose pay increased from $128,282 to $144,772.

• Assistant General Manager of Operations Melinda Mafnas, whose pay increased from $145,000 to $155,215.

• Assistant General Manager of Engineering and Technical Services John Cruz Jr., whose pay increased from $145,000 to $155,215.

Commissioner Judi Guthertz initiated the motion while Commissioner Michael Limtiaco seconded. Michael Limtiaco noted that Beatrice Limtiaco is his wife.

The rollbacks follow last week's reversal of pay adjustments to six other utility executives and lawyers, and the CCU board secretary. The attorney general determined that the CCU's actions had violated the law, and the adjustments were void and needed to be paid back.

Commissioner Simon Sanchez said the CCU was given prior legal advice that executive session discussions on pay raises were proper. While it may have been wrong, the CCU did not purposely act to violate the law, Sanchez said – a sentiment that would be repeated at least once more during the meeting.

Last week, there was some discussion over whether the CCU even had the authority to act on salaries for the employees that were rolled back Tuesday.

However, that issue was resolved quickly for Mafnas, as it was determined Tuesday her pay also needed CCU approval.

There was more discussion on the other two assistant general managers. Sanchez noted last week that they were not part of the CCU enabling law. That aspect is part of several inquiries to the attorney general seeking clarification on CCU authority, as well as the procedures for the repayment of salaries.

But the CCU ultimately decided to first follow the instructions provided by the attorney general, which was to void all pay raises adopted in that November 2018 CCU meeting.

Personnel evaluations and recordings

Other issues discussed Tuesday revolved around personnel evaluations and whether recordings discussing evaluations can be released to the public.

The November meeting did not just discuss salaries, but also evaluations, which CCU Chairman Joey Duenas said remain private.

There have been several Freedom of Information Act requests for the executive session recordings. The CCU has already denied one request from The Guam Daily Post based on evaluations being private.

Deadlines for other FOIA requests are approaching.

On May 27, the gag on the executive session recordings will run out, making them releasable to the public, except for the portion discussing personal matters, according to Sanchez.

Duenas said he was not comfortable releasing anything.

"I think the best thing to do is to go to court and let the judge decide if those salary things are releasable and let him do the releasing. I don't want the liability of inadvertently releasing something by mistake," Duenas said.

"For me, personally, I will tell you that I will not vote to release anything – I would rather have a judge release it. And the judge may say the discussion is so intertwined that none of it is releasable. I don't know," he added.

Opinion from legal counsel

Vincent Leon Guerrero, an independent legal counsel hired by the commission to assist with these issues, will be providing an opinion on the matter, but is expected to determine that the requested information is not releasable.

But he also said he was going to make the recommendation to file a declaratory action at the court asking for guidance on what to release.

"That way, you do absolve a lot of liability," he said.

The value of going to court, Guthertz said, is it would provide guidance to other agencies.

No decision on the court matter was made last night as CCU members wait on Leon Guerrero's written opinion. The commissioners recessed until next Tuesday.

Reporting on utilities, education and other topics.