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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Guam Port Authority Dismisses General Manager
Mary Torres says port ‘compromised,’ sacking was political

By Joy White

HAGTA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Dec. 20, 2012) – Turmoil at the port continued yesterday as the Port Authority of Guam (PAG) board met and decided to dismiss PAG General Manager Mary Torres, officially appointing former Department of Public Works Director Joanne Brown as the new port general manager.

Brown had been acting GM for the port since last Monday after Deputy General Manager Anisia Terlaje resigned.

In a press conference after the board meeting, Torres said the stability and continuity of the management of the port has been endangered.

"The continuity of the port is compromised. In fact, when the adverse actions were served, this place essentially shut down. We didn’t have people to process any payment for payroll. It was ill-thought," Torres said.

She added her termination was driven by the political schemes of Gov. Eddie Calvo and his administration.

She then outlined the events that led to her termination.

According to Torres, the trouble began with a claim filed by a port employee for workman’s compensation for an accident that occurred on Sept. 5, 2011. Torres indicated that this employee is a perceived political enemy of the current administration.

Torres said she became general manager in February 2012 and did not have any personal knowledge of the accident.

Relying on second-hand information, she approved the employee’s request for off-island treatment. The request had also been signed by the deputy general manager, the corporate services manager, personnel services administrator, and the comptroller who certified availability of funds.

Accused

On Nov. 29, Torres said she met with Governor’s Chief of Staff Frank Arriola to review a report prepared by legal counsel for the port regarding the claim. Arriola informed Torres she was being accused of misconduct for her actions involving the employee’s claim.

According to Torres, Arriola then gave her a choice between resignation, termination, or transfer to the Guam Visitors Bureau as general manager.

The following day, Torres said she met with Arriola and PAG board vice chairman Mike Benito. At this second meeting, they informed her that she could stay employed if she took adverse action against the employees involved in the claim.

Torres said she insisted on seeing the report and exhibits of the adverse actions. She said the findings of the report were from an undocumented meeting that took place on Oct. 19.

The legal counsel’s report was filled with "inaccuracies, distortions and poorly reasoned legal conclusions," Torres said.

She refused to take adverse action against the employees.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, six other employees – Port Marketing Administrator Bernadette Stern Meno; Controller Jojo Guevera; Program Coordinator Josette Javelosa; Personnel Specialist Frances Arriola; Corporate Services Manager Vivian Leon; and Personnel Services Administrator Francine Roccio – have prepared a lawsuit for "wrongful termination" and "political retribution," calling the board's action "a witch hunt from the beginning."]

Felix

Torres’ brother, former Gov. Felix Camacho who was by her side to give support, accused Calvo of allowing a wedge to be driven between members of the Republican Party of Guam.

Camacho stated: "Politically, I am surprised that Gov. Calvo has allowed this process to get out of hand. It is like a runway train and he has allowed, I believe, the Port board of directors to run amok and act irresponsibly. As in all things of this magnitude, the governor is never outside of it. He must be counseled, he must be advised, and he must give his blessing."

Denied

Calvo has denied any political motivations behind the events at the port.

Calvo stated: "I appointed all the members of this board. I recommended the management team. So as the events turned out, of course I’m disappointed. But at this point the board has to do its job, and the management has to do its job, as long as what they do is for the best interest of the port and most importantly the people of Guam."

Marianas Variety Guam: www.mvguam.com
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