“I am watching you,” warns Joanne Brown to new Port GM over probe into Port 7 case

Port Authority of Guam general manager Rory Respicio and former port GM Joanne Brown (PNC graphic by Ricky De Guzman)

Guam – Some scathing words from the former Port Authority general manager to Rory Respicio, who’s taken over her spot: I am watching you.

Barely three days into the new administration and already a fiery exchange between political enemies. And it all has to do with the six-year-old Port 7 case.

It was a rude awakening–literally–for former Port Authority General Manager Joanne Brown as Rory Respicio hopped onto News Talk K57’s Morning’s with Patti to discuss a probe he’s planning to make into the December 2012 Port 7 termination case.

“If politics was the reason why these employees were terminated, certainly it’s not gonna be politics that’s gonna bring them back, so I’m gonna create a task force. I already had a conversation with Connie Shinohara, she’s gonna chair, she’s gonna be given the authority to do her due diligence, to come up with all the supporting documents, to come up with the inconsistencies in this process,” says the acting GM.

The Port 7 was a highly politicized case involving former Port Marketing Manager Bernadette Sterne Meno and six other employees who were fired for allegedly falsifying Meno’s worker’s compensation documents after she suffered a fall at the Port bathroom. Meno and other political allies believed their terminations were politically motivated.

For many of the seven, despite making its rounds through the Civil Service Commission and the local courts, their cases remain unresolved six years later.

But is there an ulterior motive behind this investigation? After all, Respicio did pick up Meno and put her to work at his office while he was still a senator after she was terminated from the Port.

The new Port GM acknowledges the perception this may give off given his association with Meno, but he assures the public that this is not about political retribution.

“What about the justice for the employees, for all of the employees government-wide? There’s court orders to reinstate employees and they’re refusing,” Respicio points out. “I’ve never walked away from controversy because in the end justice needs to be served no matter what shape or form and no matter the fallout.”

But this is hardly the place or time to be calling for a public investigation, says an incensed Brown, who called into K57 to answer to Respicio’s contentions, noting that there already was an investigation done by the proper authorities that’s gone through the legal system.

“Just like literally the first day you get in, that’s your priority? That sends a very bad message and there are a lot of people watching,” warns Brown. “With regards to improper, illegal activities of the Port that occurred, the fact that he wants to meddle in that, saying, ‘Well, I’m gonna get my new deputy to review that issue. You know, we’re gonna look into this, the employees are behind me.’ Well, good luck, good luck with that agenda because that particular agenda is going to make the beginning of his term at the Port very uncomfortable.”

Brown then went off on a tirade with what sounded like a threat to Respicio.

“I think this is something he needs to be very careful and trust me, I got a lot more time on my hands. I will be watching every step he makes. Take that as a threat, take it any way you want, but I’m not gonna sit back, knowing the things that I know, and having the experience I’ve had at the Port and watch somebody walk in and start trying to move that, especially for political agenda. That bothers me more than anything else. If he wants to take money out of his own pocket and pay these people, have at it but when you wanna take public funds to reward people for improper, illegal activity, I think that’s something the people of Guam need to be concerned about maybe watching.

“I live here, this is my home, this is my community, this is where my family is and I will not sit back and see this kind of nonsense going on. And unfortunately for Rory, I don’t even know if the board, they might have to look at what the heck they’re doing and what he’s doing because this does not set off a good start. There are so many other critical priorities at the Port that need to be addressed,” she laments.

Respicio, meanwhile, says the Port 7 case is not the only issue he’s addressed during his first few days at the Port and that he has many other priorities in line to ensure the agency continues to run properly.