Current and former port GMs trade blows over port performance audit

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The former and current general manager of the Port Authority of Guam are trading blows over an audit that faults the prior members of the Port board for violating the spirit of the open government law when they ratified pay raises for Port employees.

The performance audit released Wednesday by the Office of Public Accountability reviewed unclassified employee pay raises and bonuses between October 2011 and September 2019.

The audit cites the previous Port board’s decision to provide a pay raise to former GM Joanne Brown without conducting a formal performance evaluation. It also faults the former board for authorizing pay raises for other Port employees during working sessions not open to the public.

“The Board complied with the Open Government Law when they discussed and voted on the approval” of the pay adjustments, states the report. But “they violated the spirit of the law when discussions … took place during working sessions that were not open to the public.”

Respicio vs. Brown

“I’m not surprised with the Public Auditor’s findings surrounding Joanne Brown’s illegal hiring and pay raises,” stated current Port General Manager Rory Respico in a news release after the audit was issued.

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“Without demonstrating any capability and competency to run the Port Authority, Rory Respicio is attempting to nullify the very migration pay plan that has allowed him to start at the top with a very comfortable salary of $170K,” said Brown in a statement responding to Respcio’s accusation.

“I am sure Joanne Brown will take her usual stance and blame others now that the Public Auditor has exposed her illegal pay raises,” said Respicio, “but the real question is whether she will be held criminally liable.”

“It is no secret that Rory Respicio arrogantly walked into the Port Authority of Guam with an agenda in mind to interfere with pending litigation before the Supreme Court and to execute political payoffs,” stated Brown.

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Respico and Brown have exchanged sharp barbs for more than a year over the Port 7 case.

In September 2011 Port Marketing Manager Bernadette Stern Meno reported suffering back injury after what she said was a slip and fall in the woman’s bathroom at the Port. She filed a $70,000 workers compensation claim.

A year later, in October 2012, Meno was fired after an investigation by former Port attorney Mike Phillips concluded that the claim was fraudulent. 6 other Port employees were accused of participating in the fraud and cover-up and they too were fired.

Last month the current Port board approved settling the 4 remaining Port 7 cases for $1.8 million rather than pursuing further litigation which Port Deputy General Manager of Finance Luis Baza estimated could cost $2.8 million.

Meno has now been re-hired as Port Marketing Manager.

In his release, Respicio went on to say that “it would appear that Joanne Brown will have to pay back all of the money she received illegally” and “since this audit finds that she was also hired illegally, it may even affect her service credits to the retirement fund.”

“I expected to be personally attacked throughout this campaign,” states Brown who is currently a candidate for the Guam Legislature. “I know that fighting corruption will compel the corrupt to make every effort to mask their misdeeds and tear me down. This is an example of it.”

READ the statement from Port GM Respicio in FULL below:

NEWS RELEASE
Statement from Port GM Rory J. Respicio

Piti, Guam, July 15, 2020: Port Authority of Guam General Manager Rory J. Respicio issued the following statement on today’s release by the Public Auditor of his Performance Audit into Illegal Pay Raises of the former Port General Manager and former Deputy General Managers:

“I’m not surprised with the Public Auditor’s findings surrounding Joanne Brown’s illegal hiring and pay raises. It would appear that Joanne Brown will have to pay back all of the money she received illegally. Additionally, since this audit finds that she was also hired illegally, it may even affect her service credits to the retirement fund and the calculation for her annual retirement annuity for all the years she was at the Port. I am sure Joanne Brown will take her usual stance and blame others now that the Public Auditor has exposed her illegal pay raises but the real question is whether she will be held criminally liable. We most certainly will be discussing this matter further with the Board to determine how we can go about getting back the money she illegally took from the Port and the people of Guam.”

END OF STATEMENT

READ the statement from former Port GM Brown in FULL below:

“It is no secret that Rory Respicio arrogantly walked into the Port Authority of Guam with an agenda in mind to interfere with pending litigation before the Supreme Court and to execute political payoffs.

Without demonstrating any capability and competency to run the Port Authority, Rory Respicio is attempting to nullify the very migration pay plan that has allowed him to start at the top with a very comfortable salary of $170K.

I have great respect for every PAG Board member I had the honor to serve with as general manager; and I have always respected and stood by their guidance, direction and authority on everyday matters concerning the Port.

During my time as general manager, I showed up to work, I was transparent with my actions and I followed the process according to and authorized by the PAG Board, rules and regulations and the laws of Guam.

I’m running for Senator to tackle corruption within our government so I expected to be personally attacked throughout this campaign. I know that fighting corruption will compel the corrupt to make every effort to mask their misdeeds and tear me down. This is an example of it. The corrupt will claim to be faithful members of society trying to improve the quality of life for every Guamanian all while raiding the treasury behind our backs.

I stand by my record of government service and I am ready to take on these corrupted individuals, whomever they are and wherever they may be. Count on it!” stated Joanne Brown.