Guam – Former Senator Frank Aguon is defending his use of lapsed funds against charges made on the Facebook page of the wife of Yigo Mayor Bob Lizama.
Frances Lizama claims on her Facebook page that Aguon transferred thousands of dollars in lapsed funds from the budget for his Senatorial office to Senator Palacios’ office budget to ensure the former Senator’s continued employment.
Lapsed funds are left-over, unspent funds from a Senator’s annual appropriation for Office staff and expenses. However Aguon says his lapsed funds were not transferred to Senator Palacios but to Senator’s Respicio and Senator Barnes.
“I was very fortunate enough to save, or to have lapsed funds,” said Aguon “And I made, I reached out to my colleagues and I said OK in this particular case I’m going to meet up with my commitments, so that they can continue to carry out their responsibilities.”
“We’re talking about the opportunity … to provide those resources to other Senators so that they can carry out their jobs.” Adding, “I think that’s a practice that has worked very well within the Guam Legislature considering that the budget has gone down significantly and I think it should continue to remain in place.”
Aguon gave up his Senate seat when he decided to run as the Lt. Gubernatorial candidate with former Governor Carl Guiterrez in their losing bid for Adelup last November.
Lizama is a former member of Aguon’s Senatorial Staff and her Facebook page makes it clear she feels she has been unfairly treated because she is still without a job.
However, Aguon says Senator Palacios was able to find funds within his own budget to hire him as a Senior Policy Analyst after Senator Palacios’ former Policy Analyst resigned.
“I was very fortunate that the good Senator, Palacios, had looked at me. And we had worked, if you recall, back in the 27th Guam Legislature, or 29th Guam Legislature, I had worked for him as a staff member. And he was pleased with my performance. And I’m very appreciative and honored to work with him at least for the duration of the next 2 years.”
Aguon also maintains that the legislature’s resources are limited, and that lapsed funds are an important resource that can be transferred to other Senators so that they can hire staff they need or carry out commitments that they have.
The Senator also said transferring of lapsed funds from one Senator’s office budget to another has happened before, and is completely legal.
“Yes,” said Aguon, “transferring of lapsed funds has been a long standing practice of the Guam legislature.”
He defended the practice saying “I think that in this particular case, its a discretionary authority that should remain in the Guam Legislature only considering the limited finances that is provided for the operations for the entire legislative branch.”
However, he says, the legislature may decide again to reverse themselves on the issue of lapsed funds in light if the current fiscal crisis.”In the 27th Guam Legislature there was a conscious decision to reduce the over all cost of the operations of the Guam Legislature at that time because of the financial constraints of the Government at that time.”
Given the current fiscal crisis, “the reality,” said Aguon , “is that if the cash is not coming in, then everyone has to contribute to that process” of cutting back.
Aguon also disputes another allegation made on Lizama Facebook page, that he provided lapsed funds to another Senator under the condition that his son be hired.
“The employment of my son with one of the Senators in the Guam Legislature has nothing to do with the assistance that I rendered to a Senator in this Legislature. If that Senator would like to give employment to a family member than so be it. But it’s not by my particular choice, or my particular request.”
With reference to Lizama’s Facebook posting, Aguon said “It appears as if in fact only because I was not able to find employment for a number of my staff members that this has come out as a result of that.”
“I think its unfortunate,” said Aguon because he says he has and continues to try and find work for his former staff members. “There are still opportunities out there. Last week I spoke to 3 individual businesses regarding the possible employment of my former staff members and they’re looking seriously at it.”
“We’re trying,” he said.
PNC News contacted Mayor Lizama’s office in an effort to reach his wife for comment on her Facebook posting. Mayor Lizama said he would convey our request for comment to his wife, but said she was “out looking for a job.”
The mayor’s wife did not get back to us.
Mayor Lizama was the Campaign Chairman for the Gutierrez-Aguon Gubernatorial team.