Port board addresses retro pay raises of former GM; Brown responds

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

The Port Authority of Guam Board of Directors passed a resolution last week directing General Manager Rory J. Respicio to take any and all administrative and/or criminal actions necessary regarding the “illegal” retroactive salary adjustments of former general manager Joanne Brown.

Earlier this year, General Manager Respicio requested that the Attorney General issue an opinion on the retroactive salary adjustments of former GM Joanne Brown based on the findings of a Performance Audit conducted by the Guam Office of Public Accountability. On November 9, 2021, the Port Authority of Guam received an Opinion Memorandum issued by the Office of the Attorney General. In their Opinion Memorandum to the PAG, the Attorney General’s office enclosed their November 1, 2021 GHURA Opinion on illegal retroactive pay raises and directed PAG Legal Counsel to determine the validity and legality of the PAG Board of Directors’ past actions with respect to former General Manager Joanne Brown’s salary adjustments.

According to Respicio, the port determined that approximately (8) pay adjustments for former General Manager Joanne Brown contained illegal retroactive payments worth thousands of dollars, all in violation of Guam law.

“Based on the Staff Attorney’s review, and with the guidance provided by the OPA and OAG, it is clear that salary adjustments for former PAG General Manager Joanne Brown were applied retroactively in violation of Title 4 GCA § 2103.14 (Retroactive Pay) and Title 4 GCA § 6218.1 (Prohibition on Retroactive Pay Raises), thus deemed illegal,” Port General Manager Rory J. Respicio told the Board of Directors today.

According to Port Staff Attorney Christine K. Claveria’s Legal Memorandum issued to Respicio on November 18, 2021, Guam law prohibits unclassified employees from receiving retroactive pay increases unless specifically authorized by statute. She said the law also states that any person who authorizes a pay raise which is retroactive in violation of the law shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“The law is clear: Guam law prohibits retroactive pay unless expressly authorized by statute,” PAG Staff Attorney Christine K. Claveria’s Legal Memorandum stated. “There is however, no authority for the PAG General Manager (“GM”) nor the Deputy General Managers (“DGM”) to receive retroactive pay increases.”

The Board voted in favor of Resolution No. 2021-34, “RELATIVE TO DIRECTING THE GENERAL MANAGER TO EXERCISE AUTHORITY TO TAKE ANY AND ALL ADMINISTRATIVE AND/OR CRIMINAL ACTIONS NECESSARY PURSUANT TO OAG OPINION DATED NOVEMBER 9, 2021 RE REQUEST FOR OPINION ON RETROACTIVE SALARY ADJUSTMENTS FOR FORMER MANAGEMENT AT THE PORT AUTHORITY OF GUAM.” The Resolution further stated that “based on PAG in-house legal review, and with the guidance provided by both the OPA’s Performance Audit and the OAG’s Opinion Memorandum, it appears that salary adjustments for former PAG General Manager Joanne Brown were applied retroactively in violation of Title 4 GCA § 2103.14 (Retroactive Pay) and Title 4 GCA § 6218.1 (Prohibition on Retroactive Pay Raises). The PAG must confirm and calculate any and all retroactive payments resulting from any and all salary adjustments to the former PAG management from December 2012 through December 2018, and seek any and all administrative and/or criminal actions necessary pursuant to the OAG’s Opinion Memorandum and Guam law.”

According to Respicio, the agency has confirmed that the retroactive payments were received by former General Manager Joanne Brown.

Former Port GM Brown’s response

In response, former port general manager and now senator Joanne Brown issued the following statement:

“Port Authority of Guam general manager Rory Respicio has been tasked with procuring a misdemeanor prosecution against two of his bosses, Frank G. Santos and Nathan T. Taimanglo. Rory is directed to compel enforcement of 4 GCA § 6218.1 which reads:

“§ 6218.1. Prohibition on Retroactive Pay Raise. Whenever a classified or unclassified employee of the Government of Guam, including all departments, agencies and instrumentalities, whether or not autonomous, receives an increase in pay resulting from step increase, pay range increase, promotion or any other cause, such increase in pay shall not retroactive from the date of its authorization, unless so specified by law. Any person who authorizes a pay raise which is retroactive in violation of this Section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Santos and Taimanglo were members of the board when the allegedly illegal acts occurred and are members now. Board counsel and GM Respicio apparently have interests that conflict with their two bosses. Ordinarily, we could expect the board and GM, with the assistance of counsel, to unravel ethically sticky matters. However, given Rory’s profession of his desire to compromise the “Port 7” cases at his first meeting with the board coupled with throwing in the towel and settling on the Port 7 rather than letting the cases be resolved on the merits, we should all be wary.

“Let’s ask Rory when he’ll move on Frank G. Santos and Nathan T. Taimanglo.”

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