By Troy Torres
The speaker of the Guam Legislature has lost her patience and confidence with the governor. Tina Muna Barnes penned and sent Lou Leon Guerrero a direct warning today not to screw with federal funds, and to provide the public auditor resources to audit her administration.
"[O]ur people of Guam lack a sense of trust in our government. Given that hundreds of millions of dollars will be pouring into our government of Guam to respond to COVID-19, to administer the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, as well as the Economic Impact Payments, I implore you to allocate a small fraction that you have received from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Office of Public Accountability."
Speaker Muna Barnes, who has been seen as an ally of Ms. Leon Guerrero, has never before taken this tone of voice with her or asserted the independence of the Legislature since she took its helm in January 2019.
A growing number of senators, both Democrat and Republican, have joined Congressman Michael San Nicolas in calling for greater transparency and accountability from the Leon Guerrero administration. Sen. Therese Terlaje, who often has been at odds with Ms. Muna Barnes, is leading an effort to override the governor's veto of her mandatory transparency Bill No. 333-35, which the governor vetoed under false pretenses. The speaker offered her support of the effort, and called emergency session Tuesday, May 5, in part to facilitate the override.
In her letter to the governor, Ms. Muna Barnes lamented the governor's opaque handling of the public health crisis and how that has led to a dangerous loss of credibility and trust in the governor, while extolling the public auditor as an independent first step to restoring dignity in the government.
"I have seen firsthand the work of the OPA - restoring the dignity of this Government based on the work he and his team have done – and we must continue to allow them to do so. That being said, as you are be aware, should these funds be misused, the Government of Guam would need to reimburse the Federal Government for any discrepancies – something we cannot afford."