By Jacob Nakamura
The dust hasn't even settled on the 2020 General Election, and a proxy war already is igniting among current and incoming Republican senators.
The battleground? A sensible piece of legislation by Republican Sen. Mary Torres.
Bill No. 312 provides a mechanism for the government to remove employees who are found by the Civil Service Commission to have been erroneously hired without proper qualifications. Ms. Torres introduced the bill at the request of the CSC.
The bill, according to Ms. Torres, allows those unqualified employees, especially those who have worked for years and have positive performance evaluations, to be served with notices of adverse actions. A notice of adverse action begins a period of due process for the employee to make his or her case before the CSC through a qualified process.
This due process period will not apply to employees who lie or commit fraud on their employment applications. Those employees, according to Ms. Torres's bill, would be fired immediately.
The Republican Party of Guam, however, raged a battle against her bill, attacking Ms. Torres publicly and saying her bill is an attack on the merit system.
"It is a slap in the face of all those who qualify for their positions, period. Is there a mad scramble to fill govGuam positions for which political hires do not qualify? What’s going on?” says Senator Telo Taitague, Minority Leader.
Ms. Torres uncharacteristically responded in defense of her bill:
“I realize some individuals give misinformation to advance their political agenda, but even I expect opponents to actually read the bill.
"While certain people are entitled to their own opinions, no one is entitled to their own facts.
"Despite the lies touted by members of this Body, I introduced Bill 312 at the request of the Civil Service Commission because I believe that people should be hired based on their qualifications, not their political connections. That is why the bill allows the CSC to directly serve an employee notice of adverse action if a post-audit investigation finds that the person was unqualified for the job.
"But I also believe that this audit should happen within a reasonable timeframe of a standard probationary period. If an employee lies or commits fraud on their application, that timeline would not apply.
"My colleagues think otherwise. They say that even after years of hard work and strong performance evaluations, you should lose your job—even if you did nothing wrong.
"I ask reasonable minds: do you believe someone who applied for a job in good faith, accepted that job, and did it well for months or even years should lose it because government made an error? I don’t.
"Time and time again, this Body has considered remedies for land, businesses, and student scholarships, because they shouldn’t take the fall for the government’s mistakes. Why should that standard be different for real people?” - Sen. Mary Torres
Reading between the lines
Ms. Torres's mission to fix and modernize how the government treats its employees stems from her experience in 2012, when former Gov. Eddie Calvo fired her as general manager of the Port Authority of Guam. It was the reason she ran for senator.
Mr. Calvo fired Torres after she refused to fire seven seaport employees commonly known as the Port 7. At the heart of the matter was Mr. Calvo's insistence that two of his political enemies: Bernadette Meno and Vivian Leon, who were among the Port 7, be burned at the political stake. The scandal that ensued came to be the largest political witch hunt in GovGuam history. All seven have since been exonerated by the facts.
Mr. Calvo replaced Ms. Torres with Joanne Brown, who now is an incoming Republican senator in the next legislature. Ms. Brown carried out the firings and spent the next eight years publicly attacking and impugning Ms. Torres's credibility and integrity in both the CSC, and through the media.
An impending Republican coup for the speakership
Voters elected to reduce the current Democratic supermajority to a one-vote split between the new Democratic majority of eight, and a reinvigorated Republican majority of seven. All it will take is for one Democrat to switch caucus allegiances, and Republicans will be able to horse trade for more power in the new legislature.
According to sources in both the Democrat and Republican camps, Ms. Torres and incoming Sen. Frank Blas, Jr. are not participating in Republican caucus talks about an impending coup.
Ms. Brown, according to sources, is leading the coup attempt in exchange for oversight of the seaport authority, and the Civil Service Commission.
Which brings us all back to Ms. Torres's Bill No. 312, and why it is setting the stage as the battleground for speaker, and possibly for a badly split Republican Party.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero must be smiling somewhere on San Ramon Hill right now.