A war of words has erupted in the wake of an unprecedented seaport board of directors resolution authorizing action against Sen. Joanne Brown.
The board on Thanksgiving Eve gave its general manager, Rory Respicio, the green light to pursue any and all civil remedies to recovery hundreds of thousands of dollars Ms. Brown received as a result of at least eight illegal retroactive pay raises confirmed by an independent audit and an opinion by the attorney general. The seaport also authorized Mr. Respicio to work with authorities in reporting crimes that have been committed.
Ms. Brown responded today with the following statement:
“Port Authority of Guam general manager Rory Respicio has been tasked with procuring a misdemeanor prosecution against two of his bosses, Frank G. Santos and Nathan T. Taimanglo. Rory is directed to compel enforcement of 4 GCA § 6218.1 which reads:
“‘§ 6218.1. Prohibition on Retroactive Pay Raise. Whenever a classified or unclassified employee of the Government of Guam, including all departments, agencies and instrumentalities, whether or not autonomous, receives an increase in pay resulting from step increase, pay range increase, promotion or any other cause, such increase in pay shall not retroactive from the date of its authorization, unless so specified by law. Any person who authorizes a pay raise which is retroactive in violation of this Section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.’
“Santos and Taimanglo were members of the board when the allegedly illegal acts occurred and are members now. Board counsel and GM Respicio apparently have interests that conflict with their two bosses. Ordinarily we could expect the board and GM, with the assistance of counsel, to unravel ethically sticky matters. However, given Rory’s profession of his desire to compromise the “Port 7” cases at his first meeting with the board coupled with throwing in the towel and settling on the Port 7 rather than letting the cases be resolved on the merits, we should all be wary.
“Let’s ask Rory when he’ll move on Frank G. Santos and Nathan T. Taimanglo.”
Ms. Brown’s assertion that Mr. Taimanglo ‘authorized’ her illegal pay increase is without basis. Mr. Taimanglo, according to documents, had nothing to do with any of Ms. Brown’s retroactive illegal pay raises.
Mr. Santos Monday afternoon responded forcefully:
“I looked at the past board meeting minutes and to my recollection the board only approved her performance evaluation and never approved any retroactive salary pay raises.
“Now that we are aware that retroactive salary pay raises for unclassified employees are illegal, the only remedy is for Joanne Brown to pay it back. Now that we are told by the Attorney General and the Port Counsel that the retroactive raises are illegal, I respect those decisions and supported the resolution in order to recover the illegal payments made to JoAnne Brown.
“As the Board Chairman, I expected that the former General Manager would have followed all the laws and rules and regulations. As her former boss I am deeply disappointed in her response.”
Mr. Respicio, who is in the process of reviewing past practices to determine whether other illegal activity has happened, also released a statement Monday morning. Mr. Respicio plainly refuted Ms. Brown’s deflections:
“Once again, former Port General Manager Joanne Brown is deflecting and blaming others for the thousands of dollars in illegal retroactive pay raises she received while at the Port. Not only is she deflecting, but she is intentionally misleading the public about what transpired at our board meeting last week. I was not tasked with ‘procuring misdemeanor prosecution’ against two board members as she claimed in her release. Joanne Brown continues to muddy the water by throwing in false statements in her release. In the case of Vice Chairman Nathan Taimanglo, his signature is not on any of the illegal retroactive payment documents.
“Not once in her release did Joanne Brown address the real issue which is the fact that she received numerous retroactive payments that are prohibited by law. She also failed to address whether she will pay back the illegal monies received. As for any future criminal prosecution, that authority rests with the Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and not the Port Authority of Guam.
“However, the Port, with the authority given by the board, does intend to take any and all administrative actions to recover the illegal monies she received. Further, Joanne Brown is well aware that there are numerous local and federal statutes that specifically address the fact that she received illegal monies from the government. Those matters most certainly will be addressed as well.”
Kandit has asked the port GM whether he will be filing criminal complaints against Ms. Brown.
“As for any future criminal prosecution, that authority rests with the Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office and not the Port Authority of Guam,” Mr. Respicio said. He added, “In the last few days since this issue has been brought forth publicly, Joanne Brown has changed her story at least three times on why she accepted illegal retroactive pay raises. First she claimed she worked hard for that money and deserved the pay raises. Then she blamed the Human Resources Division for setting her salary and now she is blaming board members. She has yet to address why she accepted illegal retroactive pay raises and whether she intends to pay back the money. We have been consistent: the Attorney General and Port Counsel have said it is illegal and the board authorized me to recover these illegal pay raises. The media should ask Joanne Brown if she intends to pay back the thousands of dollars in illegal payments made to her.”