By Jacob Nakamura
Joanne Brown received nine pay raises in seven years. She was illegally hired, and most of the raises she was given were conducted against the law. This is according to information provided in a performance audit released this afternoon by Public Auditor Benjamin F. Cruz.
Mr. Cruz is continuing his investigation into the nature of hiring and pay increases given to agency heads in the autonomous agencies of the government. His audit findings into the heads of the Guam Power and Waterworks authorities led to the payback of raises given against the requirements of the Open Government Act.
In this latest audit of the Port Authority of Guam, Mr. Cruz said, "We found that the Board of Directors discussed and decided on the hiring of the former General Manager in its December 19, 2012 executive session."
According to §8111(a) of the Open Government Law,
"Under no circumstances shall a public agency hold an executive or closed meeting to discuss salaries, salary levels, or salary adjustments of any employee or officer. All such discussions or decisions must be held in a public meeting and minutes shall be kept and open to the public."
Current seaport general manager Rory Respicio, whom Ms. Brown ironically has berated and labeled corrupt, issued the following statement:
“I’m not surprised with the Public Auditor’s findings surrounding Joanne Brown’s illegal hiring and pay raises. It would appear that Joanne Brown will have to pay back all of the money she received illegally. Additionally, since this audit finds that she was also hired illegally, it may even affect her service credits to the retirement fund and the calculation for her annual retirement annuity for all the years she was at the Port. I am sure Joanne Brown will take her usual stance and blame others now that the Public Auditor has exposed her illegal pay raises but the real question is whether she will be held criminally liable. We most certainly will be discussing this matter further with the Board to determine how we can go about getting back the money she illegally took from the Port and the people of Guam.”
While there are no audits or investigations findings to support Ms. Brown's accusations that Mr. Respicio is corrupt, there now is an entire performance audit pointing to illegal pay raises that benefitted Ms. Brown.
Ms. Brown's salary started at $114,982 in December 2012, and within only seven years and after nine pay raises shot up to $169,968.
According to the audit, the pay raises granted in 2018 were done without any formal performance evaluations, and the pay raises granted between 2016 and 2017 were approved after issuance. The public auditor referred to the meeting minutes of a February 27, 2018 general session of the port board in citing that the board did not ratify pay adjustments as a result of performance evaluations, which the law requires.
The information contained in the audit also confirms a point and complaint Kandit made to the Public Auditor and the Attorney General in April 2019, when our news agency first presented this information - several of Ms. Brown's pay adjustments were made retroactively, which is expressly forbidden in law.
Ms. Brown is a Republican candidate for senator.