Guam – Francis Arriola has won her appeal to the Civil Service Commission which voted Wednesday night to void her termination from the Port of Guam after deciding that Port Management had violated the 60-day rule.
The 60-day rule requires that once management learns of an actionable offense committed by an employee, they have 60 days in which to notify that employee of a final adverse action; to fire them, in other words.
Arriola served as a Personnel Specialist at the Port. She is now eligible for reinstatement to the Port with full back pay, unless Port management decides to appeal the CSC decision in the courts.
She was one of 7 employees who received a Final Adverse Action Notice on December 18th of last year over an alleged conspiracy to falsify a worker’s compensation claim that was made by, but never paid out to, former Port Marketing Manager Bernadette Meno.
Arriolla is alleged to have back dated Meno’s claim and entered a higher than allowable per diem rate for off-island medcial treatment. But the merits of the Port’s case against Arriola were not decided by the Commission.
The first task before the CSC was whether proper procedure had been followed and the question they had to decided was whether Port management first came to know of the alleged conspiracy during a meeting on October 18th, or during a meeting on October 25th.
If management first knew on the 25th, then the Final Adverse Action Notices sent on December 18th went out before 60-days had passed. However if management learned of Arriola’s alleged conduct on the 18th, then the termiantion notice she got on December 18th arrived after 61 days had elapsed, one day too late.
Port Attorney Mike Phillips argued that there was no meeting on October 18th.
“Whether management knew on the 19th, 20, 21st, from the 19th on, the 60 day rule is not violated,” said Phillips. “The 19th the Director and Deputy were summoned to my Office because the Chair had discovered there was an attempt to expend $70-thousand dollars in taxpayer’s money, but there was no meeting.”
“The first meeting,” at which the alleged conspiracy was made know to the full Board said Phillips “was on the 25th.” Although Phillips acknowledged that there were individuals on the Board who learned of the allegations on the 19th.
However, Arriola’s attorney Dan Somerfleck held up the adverse action notice issued to his client and told the Commission “Whatever Mr. Phillips can say at this point, he can’t take back what he put in the adverse action … by their own admission, by counsel, in the adverse action … they have admitted the Board found out about this ‘illegal travel’ on the 18th.”
The Civil Service Commissioners agreed with Somerfleck and voted to void Arriola’s termination.
After the vote, Arriola, in tears, embraced Meno and some of the 6 other terminated Port employees accused of being involved in the alleged conspiracy.
However, later in the hearing, when the same 60-day rule issue was raised by attorney Curtis Van de Veld on behalf of his client, Bernadette Meno, the CSC rules there was no violation of the 60-day rule. They suggested that the Port Board learned of Meno’s involvement on October 28th, and therefore her termination on December 18th fell within the 60-days.
Meno’s appeal to have her termination voided will now move on to a hearing on the merits.
Terminated Port Employees:
1. Vivian Leon – Corporate Service Manager
2. Francine Roccio – Personnel Services Administrator
3. Bernadette Stern Meno – Port Marketing Manager – CSC declines to VOID Final Adverse Action Notice ruling 60-day rule was NOT violated
4. Jose “Jojo” Guevera – Controller
5. Josette Javelosa – Program Coordinator
6. Frances Arriola – Personnel Specialist – CSC VOIDS Final Adverse Action Notice deciding that the 60-day rule was violated.
7. Leonora Leon Guerrero – HR clerck