Bonuses and pay raises handed to Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority management and in-house lawyers led to a determination from the Office of the Attorney General that the pay raises were discussed illegally, behind closed doors.
The executive session in which the raises were discussed took place in November 2018 and the raises took effect the following year, in January 2019.
Attorney General Leevin Camacho was clear in reviewing the matter: because salary adjustments were discussed behind closed doors, the CCU violated the Open Government Law and the raises were void. Any adjustments already disbursed needed to be paid back.
But the AG hasn't decided whether to pursue criminal prosecution.
"We share the public’s interest in ensuring that laws are followed," Camacho's office stated recently. "However, violation of the Open Government Law is not enough to secure a criminal conviction; we are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an intention to break the law."
In December 2019, the Office of Public Accountability also issued the findings of its review on the matter. The CCU failed to comply with the Open Government Law and violated the law prohibiting bonus pay when it issued pay raises to unclassified individuals, elected Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz's office found. Cruz is a former legislative speaker and Supreme Court justice.
Moreover, the CCU failed to conduct formal performance evaluations for general managers of Guam Power and Guam Waterworks authorities, who received pay increments and bonuses between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, according to Cruz's office.
$1.3M for a manager's pay over a decade without showing an employment contract exists
Because it had limited access to employee personnel information, the OPA also referred the matter to the Office of the Attorney General, after it could not find proper documents to support the employment of the former GWA chief financial officer, who was paid $1.3 million from 2008 to 2018.
The AG's office subsequently issued a response to the OPA finding, stating the threshold for criminal prosecution on the matter must show there was intent on the part of the officials who approved the raises behind closed doors – to break the law.
The Guam Daily Post has learned that prior legal counsel advised Commissioner Simon Sanchez about the prohibition on discussion of pay in executive session through emails in 2014. Sanchez said he'd forgotten about the emails but did ask the current counsel about the proper procedure when the pay raise were to be discussed. Nothing was said similar to the prior advice, according to Sanchez.
The pay raises were ultimately rescinded and the executive session minutes were released.
The CCU also hired an independent lawyer to conduct a series of meetings to determine how to handle the matter and whether certain records should be disclosed to the public.
Some of the top brass at utilities opted to pay back their raises all at once while others chose a payment plan.
The minutes revealed that official performance evaluations on GPA and GWA general managers were not being conducted, in compliance with the law.
The CCU had adopted a performance evaluation policy for power and water executives in 2018 but hadn't been following the policy. The commission is working to rectify those issues, according to CCU Chairman Joey Duenas.
He had also taken responsibility for the illegal pay raise discussions, stating that he should have done a better job chairing the November 2018 meeting.