Guam – The Legislature’s Committee on Power and Energy Utilities, chaired by Sen. Clynt Ridgell, conducted an oversight hearing on the Guam Power Authority this morning, and, as expected, the main interest of the senators was the controversial salary adjustments and bonuses granted to select GPA employees.
Representing the Consolidated Commission on Utilities during the oversight hearing was CCU chairman Joey Duenas while representing the Guam Power Authority was GPA general manager John Benavente.
As the oversight hearing started, the utility officials were just about to begin one of their usual long powerpoint presentations, when senator Ridgell quickly stepped in and bore into the heart of the matter by asking the officials about the controversial pay raises.
“The first question of course that the public has been concerned about and which has been a topic of discussion and concern among the community … is why the open government law was not followed when discussing the pay raises for GPA employees,” Ridgell said.
Duenas answered that he was never informed that there was a provision which required that salaries and discussions on salaries be conducted only during open session.
“Nobody informed me and until just this last incident, nobody ever wrote to us … the Attorney General never wrote to us and nobody ever said anything to us … at least to me. I can’t speak for each individual member of the commission, but I can tell you that nobody informed me. If somebody had informed me, I would have considered it my obligation to inform the other members of the commission in my capacity as the chairman of the commission,” Duenas said.
Duenas added that no legislative committee ever questioned the CCU about this matter either, until now, or at least since he started serving in the commission.
He added that with the CCU now aware that discussions on salaries should be conducted in open session, the commission plans to consult the court on specific rules regarding this so that the CCU can correct its procedure.
“The commission during its meeting last Tuesday, passed a resolution authorizing the commission to go to court and ask a judge to lay out the rules of the game and to clarify things for us. I’d like the law interpreted by the court because that’s their job. Rather than just saying, well this lawyer says this or that lawyer says that, I think it would be prudent to ask the court to really interpret the law.”
Aside from the salary adjustments and bonuses to GPA employees, the oversight hearing also tackled the Cabras explosion findings, an update and overview of the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause, or LEAC, net energy metering, renewable energy, and future capital improvement plans.
During the hearing, Micronesia Renewable Energy Vice President Jeff Voacolo also testified, criticizing the GPA presentation and saying that there’s nothing in GPA’s plan about private industry and distributed generation.
Voacolo added that GPA is a public utility that now has a monopoly on Guam. But in 10 years, Voacolo said private industry will be able to sell energy cheaper than any government-owned utility.