Port board adopts proposed settlement in the Port 7 case

Port Authority of Guam administration building. (PNC file photo)
Memo to Board re Resolution No. 2020-04

The Board of Directors of the Port Authority of Guam on Thursday approved a resolution submitted to them by Deputy General Manager of Finance Luis Baza that proposes a financial settlement in a case that began nearly 9 years ago with a reported slip and fall in the woman’s bathroom at the Port Administration building.

The resolution proposes settling the 4 remaining Port 7 cases for $1.8 million rather than pursuing further litigation which Baza estimated could cost $2.8 million.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the Port to explore and offer settlement terms that include mitigation to Mrs. Jevelosa, Mrs. Cepeda, Mrs. Meno and Mrs. Leon, which will save the Port a minimum of $1,056,553.84,” wrote Baza.

Resolution No. 2020-04 authorizes Baza to now forward the proposed settlements to Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz for his review.

Baza replaced former Deputy Manager Connie Shinohara who Port General Manager Rory Respico appointed in January 2019 to lead a task force to review 18 adverse action appeals filed under the prior administration, including the Port 7 cases.

Respico has said that he has not been involved in the review process.

Back story

In September 2011 then Port Marketing Manager Bernadette Stern Meno reported suffering back injury after her fall. She filed a $70,000 workers compensation claim.

A year later, in October 2012, she was fired after an investigation by 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.

Phillips, the former Port attorney who investigated the Port 7 cases, and former General Manager Joanne Brown who approved the terminations, have both consistently opposed a financial settlement or the reinstatement of any of the fired employees.

The Port 7 have individually sought reinstatement to the Guam Civil Service Commission.

The CSC outcomes have been appealed to the Superior Court. The Guam Supreme Court has weighed in as well.

Two of the 7 won reinstatement and settlements. 1 dropped out. Litigation continues in 4 of the cases.

The 60-day rule played a prominent part in the appeals.

The terminated employees maintained Port management did not notify them of their terminations within the 60-days after learning of the behavior that prompting the adverse action taken against them.

The law has since been revised and allows management 90 days to advise an employee of any adverse action.