The Leon Guerrero administration has been hiring lawyers at premium salaries; and at the expense of the attorney general’s prosecution division. At one point last year, the governor’s office alone had five licensed lawyers on staff. The taxpayers were paying them more than the governor herself.
“There’s a shortage of lawyers on island,” Attorney General Douglas Moylan told the Guam Chamber of Commerce in its January general membership meeting. He was informing the members that criminal justice often lags because there aren’t enough prosecutors and defense lawyers to go around.
Despite this shortage, the administration has been sucking up attorneys from both the private sector and from the attorney general’s office. And according to public staffing information available (the administration is woefully in violation of the government’s disclosure and transparency laws), Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is able to snag these attorneys by offering high salaries.
According to a review of the executive agencies’s public staffing patterns, 14 of them have attorneys on staff or via personnel contract. Most of these agencies are having the taxpayers foot the bill for more than one lawyer per agency. The governor’s office had the most at one point: five attorneys on staff. That has since been reduced to four attorneys currently working there, according to Krystal Paco San Agustin, the governor’s director of communications.
The government’s online staffing pattern (staffing.guam.gov) has been offline for months. And the staffing pattern the law requires of agencies to maintain on their websites is now two quarters behind on the governor’s office website. Because of this, Kandit was only able to attain pay information for two of the four current attorneys working for the governor:
- Attorney Leslie Travis: $126,409 base salary ($168,281 with benefits)*
- Attorney Jeffrey Moots: $126,409 base salary ($168,281 with benefits)*
- Attorney Joseph Perez: (No pay information available)*
- Attorney Janice Camacho: (No pay information available)*
*These attorneys’s base pay is about $2,000 shy of that of the attorney general of Guam.
**Ms. Paco-San Agustin Monday told Kandit she requested for the pay information for these two lawyers, but has yet to provide such information to Kandit as of the publication of this story.
The Department of Revenue and Taxation has three attorneys on staff:
- Attorney Rebecca Copper: (No pay information available)***
- Attorney Andrew Perez: (No pay information available)***
- Attorney Karl Espaldon: (No pay information available)***
***The last staffing pattern available on the DRT’s website is from Fiscal Year 2017.
The Guam Economic Development Authority, Port Authority of Guam, Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, Department of Education, and the Guam International Airport Authority all use public funds to pay two attorneys per agency. The University of Guam, Guam Waterworks Authority, and General Services Agency each keep one lawyer on staff at public expense.
AG: Stop hiring lawyers in agencies
Attorney General Moylan has said the hiring of attorneys in the agencies not only drains the pool of potential prosecutors and defense lawyers, but also skirts the role of the OAG as the local government’s chief law enforcement, civil, and consumer protection advocates. The separation of these attorneys from the OAG historically has created dissonance dangerous and disadvantageous to the public interest.
“The Legislature should seriously consider changing the law to require all autonomous agencies to only receive legal advice and protection from the people’s elected chief prosecutor, which is the elected attorney general,” Mr. Moylan said. “Guam law allows most autonomous boards and commissions to select, retain and fully control privately-hired and controlled attorneys and law firms. Most of their attorneys they select are paid by the hour and do not answer directly to the taxpaying- and voting public like the elected AG does. Also these agency counsels have no power to criminally prosecute corrupt officials nor persons harming the taxpayer-funded agencies.”
GovGuam spends multimillions on lawyers outside AG and Public Defender’s office
According to an August 2019 audit from Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz, 21 GovGuam executive agencies spent $32.6 million contracting legal firms between 2013 and 2018. The airport alone blew more than $17 million in that five-year period paying for lawyers’s fees at your expense. Tax dollars were used to pay a total of 18 law firms for those 21 agencies in 2018 alone.
Taxpayers also footed another $8 million to retain the services of 65 lawyers in 2018 alone.
While there has not been an update to that audit, in 2018, then-Gov. Eddie Calvo had only one legal counsel, while Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero today has four.
One of those attorneys was a partner in the first gentleman’s law firm.
EDITH C Iriarte
03/16/2023 at 8:09 PM
I applaud you and your staff for keeping the public well informed on every little bit of detail surrounding this administration. This type of reporting will never see the light of day if we are to depend on the kind of news medias we have.
Some leaders think they are above the law and untouchable. Well, let’s remember what happened to the former CNMI governor and his cohorts. I am anxiously waiting for any information ref $20m and GVB.
Pls keep up the great work! You are the best!
03/17/2023 at 12:45 AM
The legislature who has the power of the purse ought to take a look at this and draft a law or amend existing law to make the elected Attorney general the sole legal service provider to government agencies under the executive branch of government!
03/17/2023 at 1:49 AM
Hired attorneys throughout the Line Agencies? Wow! It is very much like the “paree stystem in politics—-ooG!!!
03/17/2023 at 3:26 AM
The paree system and nepotism are a solid, well managed systems that no one can do anything about it.
Why have an Attorney General, if that one Government Office has unlimited power and is surrounded by more than a dozen legal advisors.
03/17/2023 at 2:14 PM
Phenomenal reporting Troy! The only reliable news outlet in the entire Micronesia – LITERALLY!