Branch provides criminal grounds for recall of the governor
By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) The governor's policy director Friday made the stunning admission that the person, who approved Janela Carrera's falsified payroll records, was Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero herself.
In an interview with governor's director of policy Carlo Branch, Kandit asked for the Governor's Office's comment on the revelations that Ms. Carrera was paid regular working hours for 112 hours over three pay periods, when she was on personal vacation.
Government payroll documents reveal the conspiracy that led to more than $4,000 in gross wages paid to Ms. Carrera for work she never did. Mr. Branch's response?
"The governor exercised her Organic Act powers to manage her executive staff."
Governor's Office employees are political appointees, whose employment is at the will of the governor. And while the governor is given wide latitude by the Organic Act to choose her staff and to determine their level of pay, she must make her decisions, subject to the laws of Guam.
Guam law provides that government officials, who falsify information in order to personally benefit themselves and others, are guilty of felonious crimes. There are laws that outline the conduct of specific officials, like certifying officers, who have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to ensure that the release of public funds happens in a legal and ethical way.
It was not legal for Janela Carrera to sign her time sheets, claiming a total of 112 hours worked, when she actually was off island on personal vacation. Nor was it legal for governor's chief of staff Tony Babauta and deputy chief of staff Jon Junior Calvo to authorize her pay for those 112 hours, knowing she was not at work and not on the clock. The illegal conduct extends to Adelup timekeeper Antonio Benavente, and to certifying officer Lynette Okada Muna.
But it is Mr. Branch's admission that Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero herself ultimately approved Ms. Carrera's ability to be paid with public funds for two personal vacations, where she did not take leave, that takes the cake. The governor herself committed felonies.
The idea that the governor has blanket Organic Act powers to arrange public funds in favor of the governor's employees already has been settled in the previous administration by then-Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson.
In 2014, the Guam Legislature placed a limitation on the governor from issuing lump sum payments to his staff. Then-Gov. Eddie Calvo ignored the law, claiming he had Organic Act authority to pay his staff what he deemed they should be paid; the same argument Ms. Leon Guerrero now seems to be making.
Ironically, Mr. Branch at the time was the chief of staff to then-Speaker Benjamin Cruz, whom one year later called for a public auditor and attorney general opinion and investigation into the breach of the island's payroll laws.
Ms. Barrett-Anderson ended up issuing an opinion, which ultimately said that the governor had to abide by the island's payroll laws and that the employees paid the lump sum bonuses should pay back the amounts.
Kandit also asked Mr. Branch how the Governor's Office can explain to the other employees of the government of Guam why they are held to a separate standard of conduct over public funds. Mr. Branch said that it is not a separate standard, but a "legal standard." He did not explain what that meant.
The falsification of time sheets has been criminally prosecuted in local and federal court against several classified employees and certifying officers throughout the government, the most recent of which involving federal funds expended by a number of former Department of Public Works managers.
If Mr. Branch's admission that Ms. Leon Guerrero herself approved Ms. Carrera's illegal and falsified payroll scheme is found to be true, then the governor herself committed crimes; and the Organic Act of Guam certainly and clearly does say something about how that can be handled.
§1422b of 48 United States Code (Organic Act of Guam) states:
"Any Governor... may be removed from office by a referendum election in which at least two-thirds of the number of persons voting for such official in the last preceding general election at which such official was elected vote in favor of a recall and in which those so voting constitute a majority of all those participating in the referendum election. The referendum election shall be initiated by the Legislature of Guam following (a) a two-thirds vote of the members of the Legislature in favor of a referendum, or (b) a petition for such a referendum to the Legislature by registered voters equal in number to at least 50 per centum of the whole number of votes cast at the last general election at which such official was elected preceding the filing of the petition."