By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero last week hired her cousin, Jillette Leon Guerrero, to be the director of a small agency that has managed without a permanent head for the past decade. And while the agency is closed.
The Council for the Arts and Humanities Agency was consolidated under the Department of Chamorro Affairs by former Gov. Eddie Calvo in a sweeping reorganization of the government of Guam in his first year in office. Since then, the DCA president has undertaken the official duties of the CAHA executive director, a role DCA president Ann Marie Arceo filled until Jillette Leon Guerrero was hired last week.
Sen. Jim Moylan, who doesn't question Jillette Leon Guerrero's qualifications for the job, instead takes Lou Leon Guerrero to task for expanding her high-paid cabinet as unemployment eclipses any other economic period in modern history. He also calls into question the veracity of the governor's financial outlook and reports, and asks how the governor plans on funding government services without enough revenue this fiscal year, and next.
In a strongly-worded statement, Mr. Moylan wrote:
While the island slowly overcomes this global pandemic, it is disappointing to read media reports that indicate the Governor's hiring's of a Director and a Deputy Director, in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, and even at that, for non-essential agencies. For weeks, families were starving (and many more continue to do so), and it took the pressures of protests, introduction of legislation, and social media cries, for the administration to finally establish a program to provide a local stimulus. However even at that, it failed to assist the hundreds of families who lost their jobs. Despite several pleas to amend the eligibility for the program to allow more families to benefit, the administration chose to do nothing.
However, in the midst of thousands of island residents losing their jobs, the administration elected to hire a Director for CAHA and a Deputy Director for DISID, both of agencies deemed as non-essential and closed by the virtue of the Governor's Executive Order. While I don't question the qualifications of either individual hired, I wonder what the priorities of this administration are. While we overcome this crisis with no timelines, while we combat an invisible enemy, it makes one wonder why no immediate actions were pursued to help individuals place food on their tables. However, the Governor instead elected to grow her cabinet membership.
A couple of weeks ago my office requested for the administration’s reconsideration of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, and to submit a revised version. It is abundantly clear within several meetings involving members of the Governor's budget team, that we are in a serious economic crisis. Our tourism numbers may take 12 to 18 months at a minimum to get back to the pre-COVID arrival figures, and unemployment continues to remain at an all-time high. With reductions in an array of taxes, how does the administration plan on attaining the revenues to maintain a billion dollar budget? Instead of reducing costs, they are hiring additional employees for management roles, whose agencies are not functioning at this time. This is certainly worrisome.
I do hope that the Governor can not only justify the need of these hiring's in the midst of this pandemic, but how she plans to fund such positions, considering the global economic conditions.