By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Businessman and justice advocate Ken Leon Guerrero is asking Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje to call an oversight hearing regarding illegal pay raises and lump sum payments to the executive director of the Mayors Council of Guam, Angel Sablan.
According to Mr. Sablan's employment papers, he received three pay raises between 2014 and this year that increased his annual base salary from $46,062 to $98,937. That is a 115 percent increase in pay from 2014 to 2019.
Two of the pay raises were made retroactive, meaning Mr. Sablan received an illegal lump sum bonus payment as soon as those two raises were processed.
The first raise was requested on December 19, 2014 and was made effective 11 months earlier on January 26. That provided Mr. Sablan nearly a full year of additional wages, when his pay increased from $46,062, to $65,623, or a $19,561 pay increase.
The second raise was requested 42 days later, on January 30, 2015. That increased Mr. Sablan's salary to $76,149.
The third raise was requested March 26 this year, but made effective February 6, 2019. That provided Mr. Sablan at least four pay checks of additional wages paid as a lump sum bonus. His pay increased to $98,937.
Retroactive pay raises are illegal, unless specifically allowed by an act of the Legislature. In 1986, the Legislature specifically made retroactive pay raises for both classified and unclassified employees illegal. In 2016, the Legislature tightened its language on unclassified employees, prohibiting lump sum salary payments to them. Mr. Sablan is an unclassified employee of the Mayors Council.
In a letter to Mr. Terlaje, Mr. Leon Guerrero presents Mr. Sablan's job description, which has not changed since he was hired under the leadership of then-Mayors Council president Jose "Pedo" Terlaje (while Mr. Terlaje was the mayor of Yona) in 2008. He argues that over the duration of and despite the pay raises, no additional duties or responsibilities were given to Mr. Sablan. "The jobb description remains the same as 2014. No additional tasks have been assigned to justify a $53,000 raise from 2014 levels," Mr. Leon Guerrero's letter states.
He also states in his letter to Mr. Terlaje, "There (is) no justification for the 2019 pay raise other than the observation by the Executive Director he read in a news story that all the other directors for Government of Guam agencies are being paid more than him. That observation hardly justifies a $22,000 pay raise."
Guam law requires such justification, along with publicly-noticed meetings of the board or commission that will discuss pay increases for agency heads. Prior to that, the law requires performance reviews and the publication of such results. As Mr. Leon Guerrero points out in his letter to Mr. Terlaje, which is identical to a letter he sent to Mayors Council president Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares in May this year, that none of these legal requirements were met for any of Mr. Sablan's pay raises.
"It appears that all compensation adjustments for Executive Director Angel Sablan were done in violation of Guam Open Government Law, and established rules and regulations for the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for compensation purposes," Mr. Leon Guerrero stated in his letters to Mr. Terlaje and Ms. Savares.
Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz has been auditing a similar matter: the 11 pay increases former seaport general manager Joanne Brown received between 2012 and 2018 that doubled her pay. The resemblances in the Brown and Sablan pay raise cases are striking, with the same violations of the same laws occurring.
Governor's director of communications Janela Carrera, as well as her co-conspirators in a scheme to pay her more than $4000 in gross wages for 112 hours she did not work while she was on personal vacation, also is the subject of a criminal complaint sent to the attorney general and to Mr. Cruz. The certification of pay to Ms. Carrera by certifying officer Lynette Okada Muna is among the matters under question. In Mr. Sablan's case, he is the certifying officer for his agency, which raises other questions of misconduct as well.
Kandit this afternoon asked Mr. Terlaje for his comment on the matter.