Moylan seeks clarification on ‘temporary absence’

Senator James Moylan (file photo)

Senator James C. Moylan has submitted a written request to Attorney General Leevin Camacho seeking clarification on the position of “Acting Lieutenant Governor,” and its role when it comes to the distinction of the two separate, but equal branches of government.

His inquiry further requested for a clear definition of the term “temporary absence,” as stated in the Organic Act, to determine whether governors can truly maintain their authority if they are off-island, particularly if they are on official business.

During this term, because the Chief Executive and Lt. Governor are consistently off-island, Guam has had several “Acting” Lt. Governors, which prompted his inquiry, the senator said.

“If Congress desired the local government to have similar governance for Guam as the federal government, then there has to be a separation between the Legislative and Executive Branches. Therefore, the question we pose to the Attorney General is that if a separation does exist, then can an officer of the Executive Branch (an Acting Lt. Governor), actively participate in the Legislative Branch, especially when it comes to introducing amendments to bills on the floor or even voting on a measure?” Senator Moylan asked in a news release. “If the AG states that there is indeed a separation of the two branches of government, then this recent session may very well be invalidated, as an ‘Acting Lt. Governor’ not only presided, but also actively engaged and voted in the legislative process.”

The Organic Act of Guam stipulates that when a Governor is on a “temporary absence,” that the Lt. Governor assumes the authority of the Governor’s office. But Moylan is requesting a clarification on this term, pointing out that in this day and age of advanced communication technology, if governors are off-island are they truly ‘absent’? While a 16-hour plane ride might constitute as a “temporary absence,” once they touch down and are in communication with their senior advisors, they should be able to run the government effectively and efficiently,” Moylan said.

He added: “If the governor is representing the island in an official capacity in the nation’s capital, yet she relinquishes her authority of the title to the Lt. Governor, does that mean she is not in an official capacity during the official trip? Or does that mean the island has two governors in place? The term ‘temporary absence’ certainly had a different meaning in 1950, versus what it means today, and yet without a true definition, could it be that the interpretation of the term was left for our island government to determine?”

Moylan emphasized that this issue is not as critical as the economy, cost of living, or public safety issues he and his office have been working on, and those will continue to be his priority. Further, the senator said he understands that he may not receive a timely response from the Office of the Attorney General on this issue.

“In the short term, while we still question the intent of an ‘Acting Lt. Governor,’ the real questions we ask are how are we construing the Organic Act and if we are acting accordingly to its true interpretation. Further, is there truly a separation in our branches of government? In the long run, it is about understanding the issue to see where these questions lead us, and testing how much further we can make amends to manage our government in the manner the people desire. This is certainly one approach in seeking an improved political status,” Moylan said.