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REPORT: A moral compass that never wavers

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kandit, as promised, brings to you this chronological series on the Port 7 scandal. This story of public corruption and political intrigue is the largest and longest-running political witch hunt in the history of the government of Guam. The story begins during the first year of the Eddie Calvo administration in 2011, and continues to this day. We are producing this investigative piece because of the age of this story and the many twists and details involved.


By Troy Torres

In the midst of the past 8 years of Port 7 chaos, one thing has remained consistent: Senator Mary Torres and her fight against the injustice that happened to the employees terminated in the Port 7 case.

Her story about what happened to those employees has never changed. Her pursuit for justice has never stopped. Her moral compass has never faltered. And her grace and dignity has been a beacon of light through this all.

Senator Mary Camacho Torres was the General Manager of the Port Authority of Guam in October of 2012 when Adelup along with Port Chairman Dan Tydingco and Port legal counsel Mike Phillips launched their politically motivated attack against Bernadette Meno. Their witch hunt of an investigation into her workers compensation claim for a September 2011 accident at the Port ended with the termination of Meno and six other classified career port employees now known as the Port 7. But Senator Torres was also a victim of this political attack as she refused Adelup orders and orders from the Board Chair Tydingco to fire these employees. And consequences for her followed including her removal as the general manager.

After her removal from her position, she exposed the dirty truth behind the politically motivated investigation and termination into the Port 7.

Let’s hear from Senator Torres, the daughter of our island’s first elected governor and the sister of former Governor Felix Camacho, in her own words:

“On November 29 before 11 a.m., I was told to report to Adelup to meet with the Governor’s Chief of Staff Frank Arriola. The Chief of Staff stated there was a report prepared by the legal counsel for the Port concerning a claim for worker compensation filed by a Port Employee which implicated me in misconduct and potential criminal activity,” Torres said. “The accident involving the employee occurred months before I started working at the Port. To the best of my knowledge, the Port had not disputed the employee’s right to compensation within 14 days form the time it received notice of the injury in September, 2011 — five months before I was appointed to the Port.”

Torres said an interoffice memorandum prepared by the Port’s safety administrator, who was responsible for processing worker compensation claims, requested funding for off-island medical treatment Bernadette Meno and a travel request and authorization or TA was also included. The interoffice memorandum and TA were routed to and approved by the deputy general manager, the corporate services manager, the personnel services administrator, and the comptroller who certified the availability of funds. Relying on their prior approvals and after obtaining additional information from the Safety Administrator, Mary Camacho Torres subsequently approved the TA.

“The TA was routed to Adelup, as required by the Chief of Staff, was flagged, and the Board Chairman was then called upon to explain the circumstances surrounding the TA,” Torres said “I was stunned when the Chief of Staff mentioned that I was being accused of misconduct for my actions because I have always discharged my duties in an appropriate and prudent manner. Obviously, the press release issued by Adelup on December 6th stating that I was not a party to the investigation, was not true — they were privy to the report from legal counsel as early as November 29th. The Chief of Staff then offered to have me transferred to become the General Manager of GVB. He told me in no uncertain term that my options were to go to GVB, resign or be fired by the Board. I challenged his logic about having me move from one Government agency to another if I was involved in any misconduct. Agreeing to transfer to GVB or resign from the Port would also suggest that I concurred with the report’s findings, which I was not prepared to do. The Chief of Staff expressed that there was some concern about my willingness to take adverse action against targeted employees. I told him I was not willing to resign because I did nothing wrong and was prepared to stand on my principles. That afternoon, I received an e-mail from the Vice Chairman of the Board, Mike Benito, referencing the fact that I had the earlier conversation with the Chief of Staff regarding, in Benito’s words, “administrative issues” and that Benito “wanted to work this out to ensure no more negative light is thrust upon the Port.” He asked to meet with me in the morning to discuss how we could move forward in the best interest of the Port and that Frank Arriola could be present as well.”

The following day Mrs. Torres met again with Adelup and board vice chair Mike Benito, the brother in law of then Governor Eddie Calvo.

“I met with Mike Benito and Frank Arriola at Adelup the following morning, November 30th, and they reversed their position regarding my continued employment with the Port,” Torres said. “They told me I could stay at the Port but that my continued employment was conditioned on my agreeing to take adverse action against the targeted employees. I assured them that if I had evidence that any adverse action was called for, I would not hesitate to carry out my duties, but that I would not rubber stamp any notices of proposed adverse actions. Instead, I insisted they provide me a copy of the report by counsel, to which they continually referenced, so I could start my review.”

Senator Torres said that on that evening she was sent an email with a copy of counsel’s final report without the exhibits referenced in the report. She has said publicly that the report was obviously drafted with the intention of reaching the result that had been predetermined at the illegal board meeting held at legal counsel’s office on October 19, a board meeting which was convened without notice to the public and was unrecorded but attended by all members of the Board. The exhibits to the report were subsequently e-mailed to her on Sunday evening December 2nd.

The following morning the board held a meeting and in executive session the Chairman Tydingco asked Mary Camacho Torres to comment on the report. She declined to comment at that time because she had not had the opportunity to complete her review with all of the exhibits. Torres also told the Chairman and board members that it was important for her to see the drafts of the notices of proposed adverse actions which identified the employees, the acts they allegedly committed, and why their conduct and actions violated the personnel rules and regulations of the Port. Legal Counsel Mike Phillips was instructed to prepare the draft Notice of Proposed Adverse Action for her review and consideration.

“On December 4th at 5:42 p.m. I received legal counsel’s supposed findings of fact and conclusions of law which were filled with inaccuracies, distortions and poorly reasoned legal conclusions,” Torres said. “Legal counsel did not even bother to interview me or seek clarification on any matters. The findings of fact and conclusions of law were obviously drafted with the intention of reaching a pre-determined result, which was not surprising because the employee who was seeking worker compensation was perceived to be a political enemy of the Governor allegedly responsible for altering the Calvo-Tenorio platform known as Blueprint 2020. In fact, the Chief of Staff directly told me that this entire exercise was all about getting this employee fired and you are ‘collateral damage.’”

Torres said the report even accused her of crimes and that they were based on false information including accusing her of illegal actions at the port as far back as June 2011. Mrs. Torres did not even start working at the Port until February 2012.

“At the reconvened Board meeting on December 5th I informed the board that I was not prepared to issue notices of proposed adverse actions against the employees for the following reasons,” Torres said. “First, although I had not (and still have not) seen the NPAAs, I understood that the NPAAs were drafted by counsel and based solely on the report. I knew just from the allegations against me in the report, that the report was deeply flawed and filled with factual inaccuracies and unsustainable conclusions. It would have been reckless and irresponsible for me to base any decisions on what was contained in that report.”

Torres further added that since Mike Phillips accused her of being an accomplice in the misconduct at the heart of the NPAAs, she should be disqualified from taking action against the targeted employees.

“And third, even though there was considerable political pressure on me to issue the NPAAs against the targeted employees, I was not willing to rubber stamp the NPAAs because I did not believe them warranted since they were based solely on the report of counsel, which I did not believe was a trustworthy document,” Torres said. “I refused to take actions which would affect the careers and livelihood of good people on such unreliable evidence. My advice and recommendation to the board was that if they were relying on the report of counsel to proceed with the proposed NPAAs, the decision would prove ill advised.”

After refusing to sign off on the proposed notices of adverse action, the board immediately placed Mary Camacho Torres on leave and told her to leave the executive session board meeting. They then called down former Harbor Master Felix Camacho and asked him to sign the proposed notices. The conversation with him regarding this request is not documented as board members can be heard saying they want to turn the recorder off. Pangelinan refused and then Port Deputy General Manager Anisia Terlaje who also signed off on the travel documents and workers compensation accident documents was called in. She immediately signed the proposed notices of adverse actions for the employees.

Chairman Tydingco then had Anisia Terlaje send Port police after the employees to serve their personnel documents – something that had never been done before in the history of the port since this was an administrative matter.

Anisia Terlaje ordered Port police to take the employees into custody and place them in the middle of the Port courtyard so everyone could see them. Instead, Port police then escorted Mr. Jose B. Guevara III, Mrs. Francine Rocio, Ms. Frances Arriola and Mrs. Josette Javelosa to the Board Conference Room. They were treated like criminals and humiliated in public. When they arrived, Deputy General Manager Anisia Terlaje, who was present with Attorneys Michael Phillips and Darlene Hiton, and several Port Police officials, informed the employees to acknowledge the documents.

Two Port Police officers attempted to serve the proposed adverse action notice to Mrs. Vivian Leon in her office. She informed the officers this was an administrative process and such documents would need to be served to her by her management superior and asked them to leave her office, which they did. She left her office to talk to Mr. Guevara and he said he was served in the same manner as Mrs. Rocio and Ms. Arriola. When she returned, she found the documents on top of her conference table.

Mrs. Meno was on leave and as such Governor Calvo in coordination with Anisia Terlaje, Dan Tydinco and Mike Phillips ordered the port police to leave the port and hunt her down. Port Police officers “swarmed” her house however her husband was outside when they arrived. Her husband – a trained career law enforcement officer – believed that they were there for a criminal matter based on the port police officers behavior and the significant amount of armed officers descending upon their house. He demanded to see a warrant and when he realized that his four children were starting to come outside to assist their father, he had the police officers leave his property as he did not want his children to witness the event which was frightening them. Port police later left her documents inside a newspaper box at the edge of her property.

“I am appalled and saddened that six employees, most of them long time members of the Port’s family, have lost their jobs as a result of a politically motivated investigation,” Torres said. “My heart goes out to these employees and their families. I can only imagine how devastated they must be.”

Mrs. Torres has been a champion of the Port 7 victims all these years.

“As a dedicated employee and a person who tries to play by the rules, I did not deserve to be treated by the Board or the Administration in such a despicable manner,” Torres said. “The real story is not about me. I am blessed with a loving husband and wonderful children and I will weather this storm. The real story is about the assault on the merit protection system and the failure of people who should know better to stand up for what is right. The real story is about the cavalier manner in which the lives of six good people were ruined yesterday. I will do what’s necessary with the help of my legal team and hopefully the media to make sure that all the facts are known and the truth is exposed.”

Tomorrow we will bring you what happened in the following days when Tydingco and Phillips worked with Adelup to fire Mary Camacho Torres and the Port 7 with the help of Joanne Brown.

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