By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) A fleet of Department of Public Works vehicles and bucket trucks, manned by DPW employees couldn't repair any of the potholes jacking up cars throughout the island, or install any speedbumps to protect children today; because they were all at Skinner Plaza hanging Christmas lights.
(Story continues below pictures. Scroll through to see several official vehicles, bucket trucks, and government employees on the clock today)
An angry resident was able to snap these pictures for Kandit News Group depicting at least 12 DPW official vehicles and at least one DPW bucket truck, along with a crew of DPW employees working today to finish Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's personal Christmas decorations project at Skinner Plaza. The Governor's Office has said that the effort is voluntary.
But Skinner Plaza isn't the only place, where government workers spent time on the clock decorating. Government House also was renovated with lavish decor and private invitations sent by the governor's chief of staff to select people to visit the so-called 'House of the People.'
A WhatsApp message from Ms. Leon Guerrero's chief of staff, Tony Babauta, to the governor's cabinet confirms the misuse of resources toward these activities that are completely out of touch with the economic reality facing the majority of residents.
"We've done a lot of repairs to government house to ensure its beauty and stature every day, but most especially for the first holiday for this Administration," the message from Mr. Babauta sent Friday starts. "It looks great and the non profits who decorated the trees are a special sight. Please visit the House of the People during the holidays and also the lighting of Skinner Plaza tomorrow at 6pm. Family fun time!"
Mr. Babauta also directed the misuse of government resources for the Skinner Plaza project. Another message sent to the Cabinet Friday morning reads, "Good morning DHs and Sups. Hope your Thanksgiving Day was filled with good food and even better company. Please and kindly ask your unclassified employees to come see me this morning at 830am. There's an urgent need for them (or any other employee you can spare today) at the lighting project at Skinner's Plaza (in time for the official kickoff tonight). The POC will provide water and lunch. This request is coming from the top down. Please allow them some latitude today. Thank you."
While it is arguable whether it was ethical or legal for government employees to be used to decorate Government House and Skinner Plaza for Christmas decorations and renovations while on the clock, those terms change during the weekend. The only way for DPW employees to legally be working on a Saturday to string up stars and lights at Skinner Plaza is if they are being paid overtime; otherwise, the government will be violating labor laws.
The use of government resources for these events, on the same week the governor denied a Black Friday holiday in the name of fiscal responsibility, smacks of hypocrisy in her fiscal policy.
A notable consideration is the lack of resources dedicated by DPW for the pavement of roads within the villages, while the government is able to spend time-and-a-half on a Saturday putting up Christmas lights.
Does this administration have any priorities beyond what feels nice for the people at the top?