By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) Former seaport general manager Joanne Brown graced the airwaves of NewsTalk K57's Patti Arroyo show Christmas Eve with her melodramatic melancholy about her replacement's so-called involvement in what she terms a "political payoff" to five of the former port workers she fired seven years ago.
Last Friday the seaport board of directors voted to authorize settlement negotiations with Leonora Leon Guerrero, Frances Arriola, and Josette Javellosa to right the wrong done to them and four others in December 2012, following a political witch hunt. It was a conspiracy planned by Ms. Brown, former Gov. Eddie Calvo, former seaport legal counsel Mike Phillips, and the former seaport board, including Dan Tydingco, Mike Benito, Christine Baleto, and Ed Ilao.
The conspiracy was to get rid of then-seaport marketing manager Bernadette Meno and then-corporate services manager Vivian Leon, who were both seen as political enemies of Mr. Calvo. The conspirators used faulty allegations of a botched workers compensation claim by Ms. Meno following a legitimate work injury she sustained in 2011 to pursue the largest political witch hunt in the history of the government. In order to substantiate the conspirators's claims, Ms. Brown and Mr. Phillips had to rope in five other workers who had refused to lie to investigators. The seven of them were fired and since have been dubbed the Port 7.
Noteworthy is the victimization of two others by the conspirators: former seaport general manager and current senator Mary Torres, who was fired by the board for refusing to fire the seven employees; and former seaport board member Shelly Gibson, who opposed the terminations and was castigated by the Calvo administration.
Ms. Brown and Mr. Phillips led the public disinformation campaign against the Port 7 for years as the former employees's appeals to the Civil Service Commission was going through the process. It also is noteworthy that no other cases before the CSC have taken this long to go through the process; one of the reasons of which we will explain below as part of the irony of Ms. Brown's statement about political payoffs. As a matter of fact, after seven years, Ms. Meno, Ms. Leon, and Ms. Arriola still have not received a CSC hearing on the merits of their case.
Throughout these years, solid evidence, including secretly-taped recordings of two of the actors in this conspiracy, has surfaced of the conspirators's plans, their destruction of evidence, forgery of documents, and even of Mr. Tydingco's illegal ex parte discussions with CSC board members on the case.
The seaport board of directors this year has reinstated two of the Port 7 members: Jojo Guevara, and Francine Rocio. The board has taken the first steps toward justice for Leonora Leon Guerrero, Ms. Arriola, and Ms. Javelosa. Surprisingly, despite the evidence of the seaport's error, the board struck Ms. Meno and Ms. Leon's name from the same authorization to begin settlement negotiations.
Mr. Tydingco and Mr. Phillips, who maintain political favor with the Lou Leon Guerrero administration, have been campaigning within the administration to prevent these settlements from happening; and Ms. Brown has taken once again to the airwaves to spread lies about what had transpired years ago.
Ms. Brown claims that her replacement, seaport general manager Rory Respicio, had facilitated the the settlements in bad faith. She called the settlements "political payoffs," assuming that the Port 7 former employees were supporters of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
First of all, Mr. Respicio recused himself from the issue since the start of the year; it was his former deputy manager, Connie Jo Brennan Shinohara, who had dealt with the Port 7 issue. Mr. Respicio wasn't even in the room during last Friday's board executive session, where the settlement resolution was discussed.
Secondly, none of the Port 7 members made any financial contributions or so much as hosted a party for then-candidate Leon Guerrero. By contrast, Mr. Tydingco and Mr. Phillips were financial proponents of the administration, though Mr. Phillips was advocating for Frank Aguon's write-in campaign.
Third, the probability that these seven fired workers voted for Ray Tenorio - second-in-command of the administration that had them fired - is a whopping 0/7. Ms. Brown should do better mathematics in her head.
But let's talk about this idea of political payoffs. Ms. Brown erroneously suggests that Mr. Respicio is rewarding seven wrongly-terminated employees with a path toward justice in exchange for political support to Lou Leon Guerrero that is non-existent anywhere on the record. What at least five of the seven employees will get is back pay, maybe attorneys's fees, and their leave hours back - standard stuff for wrongly-fired government of Guam employees. And this is against the backdrop of all the evidence showing that the port was wrong. These settlements aren't about a measly violation of the 60-day rule. The seaport is settling because the government knows it will lose the remaining cases in the CSC and in trial court, just as the government lost its cases against those members of the Port 7 who actually got hearings on the merits of their cases.
What's astonishing isn't the customary backpay these employees will receive, but the extraordinary cost of this conspiracy and the effort to keep these bureaucrats from getting their jobs back. If there was a political payoff, it wasn't to the Port 7, but to Mr. Phillips, Ms. Brown, and Mr. Tydingco.
After seven years of litigation on this whole mess, it was Mr. Phillips who made the most money from the ordeal: $7 million in attorneys fees paid for by the seaport's ratepayers. Most of those fees paid for his legal battle with these seven workers that he purposely prolonged.
Ms. Brown received 11 pay raises - all of which were done illegally - during the time she was seaport general manager. Her salary doubled during her tenure, though she fails to mention that.
Mr. Tydingco was rewarded handily through contracts and even laws passed and land given that benefited the company where he is a senior executive - GTA TeleGuam Holdings.
The politics in this matter throughout these past seven years isn't in the current effort to make things right by the employees, it was in the political witch hunt to fire them and the ensuing seven years of slander and libel against them by Ms. Brown and her co-conspirators.
Aside from all the evidence that has surfaced, there's something else Kandit is able to offer to this discussion: I was in the room when the conspiracy was designed.
If Ms. Brown wants to talk about politics and payoffs, she should call to mind that there are witnesses to her culpability in this matter, who are willing to take the stand at the seaport, in the CSC, and at local and federal court.
As for Ms. Brown's assertion that Mr. Respicio has done some destructive 180 on the government's position on the Port 7, there are two important points in the final analysis of her lies:
1.) She's no longer the general manager; her gayu lost by a landslide to both Lou Leon Guerrero and Frank Aguon, so her voice shouldn't come across as big as her stomach does.
2.) There is nothing nefarious about this change of heart. Life is filled with right and wrong. What Ms. Brown and her co-conspirators did was wrong. So, if Mr. Respicio and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero want to do what is right, they have to do the exact opposite of what Ms. Brown and Mr. Calvo did.
That means: settle, because the government was wrong.