Supreme Court rules in favor of port in personnel case

Former PAG legal counsel Mike Phillips said the Supreme Court's ruling is another major victory for the Port.

The Supreme Court has issued an opinion in favor of the Port Authority of Guam, reversing an earlier ruling by the Civil Service Commission and Superior Court of Guam which favored former port employee Frances Arriola.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part a final judgment of the Superior Court upholding a decision of the Civil Service Commission.

Through a pre-merits motion, the Civil Service Commission reversed an adverse action against Frances Arriola, finding that management violated the 60-day limitation period from 4 GCA § 4406.

As part of a larger incident involving a co-worker’s workers’ compensation claim, Arriola was accused of improperly extending the employee’s travel itinerary, preparing an improper per diem request for the travel, conspiring with management, and backdating a memo to file to conceal her involvement in the incident.

The Supreme Court found that the CSC’s finding that the 60-day rule was violated with respect to the extension of the itinerary, the approval of the per diem, and the alleged conspiracy was supported by substantial evidence.

In the final notice of adverse action, the port stated that it discovered these alleged violations on a date outside the 60-day limitations period.

However, the Supreme Court reversed the finding regarding the backdated memo, because the only evidence in the record suggested that the memo was created later and within the limitations period, precluding disposition in a pre-merits motion.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Reacting to the Supreme Court action, former PAG legal counsel Mike Phillips said the Supreme Court’s ruling is another major victory for the Port and supports his argument that the employee backdating a memo to cover up wrongdoing needed to be considered.

He added that the Supreme Court also reminded the Civil Service Commission that the standard of proof is now lower as a result of another case the port won before the Supreme Court.

Phillips believes the facts before the CSC were overwhelming and there is no doubt the Port can prevail during the required commission hearing on the merits.

“We had computer evidence that the employee backdated a memo and did so to help her supervisor who was also part of the cover-up. In addition to computer records and email, we also presented live testimony from a witness in the room that observed the wrongdoing,” Phillips said in a statement.

Phillips gives credit to former port general manager Joanne Brown who he said refused to give in to any kind of wrongdoing. Phillips also said he received lots of support from the various port board members who supported Brown’s decision to continue to fight these cases.