Port worker arrested after bag search allegedly yields drug paraphernalia

PORT: The Port Authority of Guam administration building is seen in March in Piti. A Port Authority heavy equipment operator was arrested after alleged drug paraphernalia was found in a bag search. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

A Port Authority of Guam heavy equipment operator was arrested Friday after a bag search yielded alleged drug paraphernalia, the agency announced.

The Port Authority identified the employee as Ionatana Faasuamalie, who's been on the Port payroll for nearly a decade.

Port General Manager Rory Respicio said the discovery warranted that Faasuamalie be drug tested. Faasuamalie tested negative.

Respicio would not disclose what type of drug paraphernalia was allegedly found during the bag search. But he said he believes this may be the first incident involving the employee. 

Port employees are held to the highest standards, said Respicio.

The discovery was made Friday morning when Faasuamalie reported for work. 

The press release from the Port stated that Faasuamalie was entering the pedestrian gate that leads to the docks when his bag was searched.

"I don't believe the employee has any prior history of infractions with this particular issue," Respicio said.

Respicio said the bag search is part of the Port's routine requirements in providing a drug-free workplace.

"The Port Police officer did everything right under the leadership of Chief Doris Aguero, they contacted the attorney general's office. We got the guidance; he was arrested and transported to (the Guam Police Department). He was booked and released per the attorney general's office guidance, and so really we hold even our Port employees to the highest standards," said Respicio.

With the incident, The Guam Daily Post asked Respicio if he would consider random drug testing for employees who handle heavy equipment.

He referred to a letter he wrote to Sen. Telena Nelson, the chairwoman of the legislative committee that has oversight over the Port.

"It's a whole area that I think we have to be careful about," Respicio said.

Currently, the Port administers drug tests based on suspicion and if an employee is at fault in a workplace incident.

"If you have drug testing based on suspicion, that's fine, that's what we do, and we've been doing that. Now, if you have drug testing to provide a chilling effect, then that's not fine, and it's something that the attorney general has cautioned against," said Respicio.

Respicio said although bus drivers and train operators are subject to suspicion-less drug testing, heavy machinery operators, absent suspicion, can't be tested.

"Even those positions like mechanic positions, heavy equipment operator positions, even though those are test-designated positions, there needs to be a review of those positions because it could be in contravention to court cases where you have to look at those positions and weigh the impact to the overall safety of the community," Respicio said.

Suspicion could be raised through attendance issues or observations of an employee's behavior, Respicio noted. In Faasuamalie's case, Respicio said, "The reason why he was drug tested was because Port Police, they inspect the employees' property, they are going in and out of the yard."

Respicio said the Port will pursue adverse action in the incident involving Faasuamalie.

Faasuamalie is listed as a heavy equipment operator II who made $27 an hour in the previous budget year.

Respicio declined to comment on the consequences of such an alleged offense. 

"The adverse action process provides that management cannot predetermine what the ultimate consequence is. If that were the case, a notice of proposed action is issued, the employee has 10 calendar days to respond to the notice of adverse action, then management has up to 10 days to decide," he said.

Management has a total of 90 days to act on an adverse action from the moment it knows of an incident that would trigger an adverse action.

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