Ada legislation to close loophole for connected GovGuam employees on drugs

Legislation by Sen. Tony Ada will close a loophole in the government of Guam employment system that allows drug users to escape random drug testing. Bill No. 123-36, if passed, will prohibit GovGuam from rehiring workers who previously resigned to avoid drug tests.

Currently, a merit-based employee may resign from GovGuam and have the right of re-entry at the same, or similar, position at the last salary earned. An employee, who fails a drug test and is terminated loses those re-employment rights. To game the system, employees have resigned on the spot, when told to test for drugs, then are rehired within days, or months of the resignation.

Bill 123-36 will require employees to submit to drug testing if they wish to retain re-employment rights if they resigned after the announcement of a drug test. This bill is designed so that an individual has more of a chance to get the help they need rather than take advantage of their position and put themselves or others at risk in the process.

The Guam legislature held a public hearing two weeks ago regarding the legislation. “We have a responsibility on how we move the government forward in accountability and transparency and most especially, the safety of our government,” Sen. Telo Taitague said.

Senator Brown, the former director of Department of Public Works, said she has encountered bus drivers testing positive for methamphetamines and other illegal drugs. This is most concerning, she said, because they are tasked with the responsibility of driving children to and from their respective schools. On the other hand, according to Ms. Brown, she has witnessed a common practice among government of Guam agencies, including law enforcement, when drug testing is announced, some employees resign that same day.

Mr. Ada hopes to close the loophole and get employees the help they need rather than continuing to take advantage of the system. Although they cannot prevent an employee from being tipped off prior to the drug testing, it is a start in the right direction. When an announcement for testing has been made, employees do have the chance to admit that they have a problem, according to the senator.

Other loopholes to close

The on-the-spot-resignation loophole applies to more than just drug offenders. GovGuam classified employees lose re-employment rights if they are terminated for other offenses, such as conviction on felony charges.

In 2015, the federal government indicted Guam customs official Lt. Henry Alvendia in what became the largest police corruption conspiracy involving local law enforcement ever prosecuted on Guam. Mr. Alvendia, who faced 83 years in prison if convicted on the indictments eventually pleaded to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in another case. He eventually was sentenced to only 18 months in prison.

Mr. Alvendia’s superiors were aware of the crimes and his indictment, but did nothing to hold him accountable, or to keep him away from his position of power at the island’s ports of entry. He was allowed to resign, and given re-employment rights.

GovGuam never disclosed these facts publicly. They arose in 2018 the criminal defense of Juanita Moser, who faced drug trafficking charges on the word and testimony of Mr. Alvendia, who had worked with HSI in 2017 to entrap Ms. Moser and her husband, Raymond Martinez.

Ms. Moser’s attorney, David Lujan, presented the jury with a letter signed by the director of customs at the time giving Mr. Alvendia the right to be re-employed as a lieutenant with the Guam Customs agency for four years following his resignation and begged the question, ‘Who is corrupt here? My client, or the government itself for allowing Alvendia – after knowing everything he was doing – to stay in that position, then resign from that position, and have the right to go back to that position in exchange for his testimony?’

Two juries – both presented with the Alvendia file – twice could not reach a verdict in the Martinez-Moser trials.

Kandit verified with the Department of Administration Human Resources administrator that Mr. Alvendia is not currently an employee within the executive agencies under the governor’s control. We have not yet verified whether he has been employed elsewhere throughout the government of Guam, or otherwise has been contracted.

Mr. Ada’s attempt to close the drug use loophole is well needed, but more must be done to close the other loopholes that allow politics and cronyism to decay the system.

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