By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Political activist Ken Leon Guerrero filed an ethics complaint against Senators Regine Biscoe Lee and Kelly Marsh Taitano for breaking Guam's travel laws.
The complaint is based upon the plain reading of the current budget law, which restricts travel of all government employees - senators included - with 11 exceptions that are spelled out. Mr. Leon Guerrero points out in his complaint that Ms. Biscoe Lee and a staffer for Ms. Marsh Taitano, Rikki Orsini, attended the same United Nations conference in New York in early October 2019.
Mr. Leon Guerrero stated that Guam is not a member of the international organization and cites the travel provisions of the budget law, which require membership in any such organization hosting the off island event for which travel is needed.
The letter was filed with Speaker Tina Muna Barnes, whose ministerial duty it is to forward the complaint to the ethics committee she has appointed. From there, the committee will decide whether to take the matter.
According to the Legislature's rules, Ms. Muna Barnes appoints a bipartisan panel to the ethics committee every quarter of the year. The current ethics panel is for Quarter 1 and includes the speaker, and Sens. Amanda Shelton, Clynt Ridgell, Joe San Agustin, Wil Castro, and Jim Moylan.
The rules governing the ethics committee's conduct allow its initial proceedings to be done behind closed doors, and most of the records of its conduct are not publicly disclosable.
The text of Mr. Leon Guerrero's complaint follows:
This letter is a Formal Ethics Complaint against Senators Regine Biscoe-Lee and Kelly Marsh (Taitano) who may not only have violated a local law, but also conducted themselves in an unethical manner in allowing this law to be broken. Specifics of Complaint:
(1) Chapter XIII-Administrative Provisions of Public Law 35-36 provided for 11 exceptions which would allow government employees and officials to travel by utilizing government funds. Item (i) stipulates that “travel to attend conferences and official meetings with national and regional government officials or national and regional organizations of which the entity is an official member.” During the dates of October 7 and October 17, 2019, Senator Regine Biscoe-Lee attended a Quest for Decolonization Meeting in New York, particularly at the United Nations.
To the best of my knowledge, Guam is not a member of the United Nations.
(2) During the dates of October 6 and October 12, 2019, Rikki R. Orsini, attended the same event in New York, as she represented the Committee on Heritage and the Arts, Parks Guam Products, Hagatna, Revitalization, Self Determination, and Regional Affairs. This is the Committee chaired by Senator Kelly Marsh (Taitano), hence the Senator approved the travel.
(3) These trips were funded by the respective Senatorial Offices, which ultimately falls under the budget of the Guam Legislature.
I’m requesting the Ethics Committee of the 35th Guam Legislature investigate these expenditures to determine if the law was truly violated, and if so, what actions will be pursued upon these lawmakers to address this complaint.
Ken Leon-Guerrero, Taxpayer
CC: Brad Huesman, Fischer Huesman PC