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The political front line pays more

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) President Trump went through Congress to approve what amounts to be an $815 annual increase in pay for America's troops on the front lines. Gov. Ralph Torres didn't even bother changing the law that prohibits him from paying his cabinet and senior staff special pay; he doctored overtime the law forbids these exempt employees and paid them using typhoon disaster funds by issuing a memo.

And while America's troops, which include thousands of brave servicemen and women from the Marianas, get raises this coming year ranging from $815 to more than $1,500 annually to risk life and limb for the country, Mr. Torres's senior staff and cabinet members each received overtime pay ranging from $605 to $36,775 for post-typhoons recovery work.

Several members of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's senior staff and cabinet also received multi-thousand dollar pay raises in the first year of her administration. This is not to mention the already-high pay they received upon their initial appointments January this year. The highest paid Adelup staffer? Her son in law, Haig Huynh, who is her legal counsel paid $126,409 and doesn't even have a full license to practice law in Guam. (See more on Guam senior staff pay further below)

It pays more to be on the political front lines of the Marianas governments than it does to be on the front lines of war.

The Marianas Variety and the Saipan Tribune in April this year reported that members of Mr. Torres's senior staff and cabinet were paid at a rate of 250 percent their hourly rate for hours represented to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that these officials had worked on typhoons relief efforts.

As of the latest figures available to Kandit News Group, 40 high-ranking Torres administration officials were paid a total of $543,.674.24. Director of Finance and Accounting Bernadita Palacios was paid the least, $605.82. Every one else on the list of 40 was paid four- and five-figure checks. Former secretary of finance Larissa Larson was paid the most: $36,775.43.

Exempt officials, which the cabinet members and senior staffers are considered to be, are not allowed to accrue overtime payments according to the Commonwealth's laws. To sidestep the law, Mr. Torres issued a memo commanding the payments. The Secretary of Finance, who has the fiduciary responsibility to stop the certification of funds without authorization, did not stop the payments. Neither did Attorney General Edward Manibusan.

The top 10 cabinet and senior staff officials were paid more than half of the 40 officials's total pay, or $282,108.15 for just 10 people. They include former Commissioner of the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Clyde Norita, who was paid $26,890.14, and his girlfriend, Special Assistant for Management and Budget Vicky Villagomez, who was paid $26,855.90.

Mr. Norita is a big defender of Mr. Torres's administration, often ridiculing brave detractors on social media. His Tonto is Secretary of Community and Cultural Affairs Robert Hunter, who was paid $14,636.08.

See the full list below.

Meanwhile, hundreds of disaster relief front line workers still await payment of their overtime. Secretary of Labor Vicky Benavente, who was among the first to receive a check of $16,567.01, may have to contend with violations of labor laws as these workers wait for compensation overdue to these workers, who are being forced to submit letters justifying their overtime claims, a standard not imposed upon the cabinet and senior staff.

Workers due overtime from the Commonwealth Ports Authority were told their overtime claims will need to be converted to compensatory time.

Guam governor's staff

At the start of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's term, several high-ranking officials started their jobs at base rates higher than their predecessors. Janela Carrera, the governor's director of communications, even received a pay increase to $75,000. Her predecessor started in that position at $58,500. Her press secretary, Krystal Paco, whose predecessor made $45,000, started her job at $65,000.

Ms. Leon Guerrero's chief of staff, Anthony Babauta, is paid $120,000. His predecessor's annual salary was $115,000. Deputy chief of staff Jon Junior Calvo is paid $115,000, while his predecessor Rose Ramsey earned starting pay of $75,000, which increased by the end of the Calvo administration to $105,000.

The only high-ranking official earning less than her predecessor is governor's chief fiscal advisor, Bertha Duenas, who earns $90,000 compared to her predecessor's $125,000 salary.

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In regards to Variety being back online now since it has been down since Dec 21st, it is not completely operational as sometime it will open in broken bits etc.

They are still censuring and not posting comments that point out and question discrepancies in the info in their article and also censuring out sentences in others that state facts about their inept reporter.

They should censor out the editor and/or whom ever is doing the moderation.

This question was asked in a comment here, inthis article,

" Anyway can anyone figure out what the "year in resiliency" article is actually about? "

Only a Filipino mind could possibly figure this out in that article in reference. AND this is…


The Variety is back online. It took them only a week to upgrade their Joomla that's been obsollete for six years.

Anyway can anyone figure out what the "year in resiliency" article is actually about?

It's like the dude was sent to write a thoughtful year in review article but couldn't think of what to write so just started quoting random politicians spouting about random things.


BTW, for those first respondents and other that were entitled to OT pay, read this.

While what you do on the job is the most critical factor in determining whether you're correctly classified as exempt or nonexempt, your earnings matter too. Since 2004, individuals who make less than $23,660 a year are automatically classified as nonexempt.

However, in March 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a significant change. It wants to increase the standard salary level to $35,308 annually. This hasn't gone into effect yet. It's anticipated that it will happen sometime in 2020.


Looking at the list I can see that MVariety only got a couple of the payouts correct (3), most under reported with one almost double of what was actually paid out. (they could not even get this info correct.

BTW they (MV) still never got their link fixed yet.


Very interesting since few (if any) should have been required to put in ANY over time in the "recovery" and almost all of the Dept. listed should have NOT have been affected to the extent that any of the named cabinet member would have any impact on recovery as recovery involves initial first respondents, clean up crews. then construction.

As an example just what would be any reason for Larissa at DOF for overtime to be warranted?

This question could be asked at each person and dept. listed. Besides they are all "exempt" employees.

BTW, without going back and pulling up the "law" and regs on the overtime, basically what has been in effect from the Feds, is that any…

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