EDITOR'S NOTE: Kandit, as promised, brings to you this chronological series on the Port 7 scandal. This story of public corruption and political intrigue is the largest and longest-running political witch hunt in the history of the government of Guam. The story begins during the first year of the Eddie Calvo administration in 2011, and continues to this day. We are producing this investigative piece because of the age of this story and the many twists and details involved.
· CHAPTER 1: It started with the blow of a whistle
· CHAPTER 2: 'I was sent here to fire you'
· CHAPTER 4: Whistleblowers tried to stop second illegal lease
· CHAPTER 5: The infamous slip and fall
· CHAPTER 6: Accident left on whistleblower out of commission
· CHAPTER 7: Adelup pounces on Bernadette while she's sick
· CHAPTER 8: Port 7 victims's fate sealed in SECRET MEETINGS
· CHAPTER 9: A moral compass that never wavers
By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) On December 5, 2012, the seaport board of directors met, went into executive session, and decided to force management to fire six of the port's employees - Bernadette Meno, Vivian Leon, Francine Rocio, Jojo Guevara, Frances Arriola, and Josette Javelosa.
Mary Torres, the general manager at the time, refused to sign the notices of proposed adverse action (NPAA) against the employees because she knew the investigative report prepared by the law firm owned by seaport legal counsel Mike Phillips was seriously flawed and was written with a pre-determined outcome. Prior to the December 5, 2012 meeting, she had met with then-Gov. Eddie Calvo and his chief of staff, Franklin Arriola, who both told her why they needed her to fire Bernadette Meno: politics.
“I knew just from the allegations against me in the report, that the report was deeply flawed and filled with factual inaccuracies and unsustainable conclusions,” Senator Mary Camacho Torres said. “It would have been reckless and irresponsible for me to base any decisions on what was contained in that report. Even though there was considerable political pressure on me to issue the NPAAs against the targeted employees, I was not willing to rubber stamp the NPAAs because I did not believe them warranted since they were based solely on the report of counsel, which I did not believe was a trustworthy document. I refused to take actions which would affect the careers and livelihood of good people on such unreliable evidence. My advice and recommendation to the board was that if they were relying on the report of counsel to proceed with the proposed NPAAs, the decision would prove ill advised.”
So on December 5, the board placed her on leave, making deputy manager Anisia Terlaje the acting general manager.
Ms. Terlaje quickly carried out the governor's wishes. She signed the NPAAs against the six employees, had port police escort the employees from their offices to the board conference room to be served, then upon the governor's orders, sent port police to serve Bernadette Meno at her home.
An NPAA is a statement that is supposed to be very specific in the explanation to an employee of how they allegedly violated the personnel rules and regulations of the agency and the details as to how those rules and regulations were violated. Despite changing stories by Calvo administration officials in the six years that followed the December 5 NPAAs about the different allegations surrounding each of the employees, the NPAAs themselves were identical as to the allegations and even the detail of the alleged violations of the personnel rules and regulations.
Once an NPAA is issued, the employees are allowed to defend themselves from the accusation and are allowed to appear before management and given a chance to make their case. If they can afford counsel, they have the right to be represented during these interviews. After all is said and done, management determines whether to move forward with the adverse action – reprimand, suspension or termination - through a Final Notice of Adverse Action (FNAA).
On December 5, 2012, board chairman Dan Tydingco, board vice chairman Mike Benito, public works director Joanne Brown, and Mr. Phillips met at Adelup with Mr. Calvo, Mr. Arriola, deputy chief of staff Rose Ramsey, and myself about the proposed firings. Part of the discussion involved Ms. Terlaje's culpability via the so-called investigation conducted by Mr. Phillips's law firm. If Mary Torres refused to sign the NFAA, Ms. Terlaje's signature might be questioned because 1) she was implicated by the report, and 2) she was not the general manager.
As we reported, both Mr. Arriola and Mr. Benito attempted to salvage the administration's relationship with the Camacho family following the December 5 meeting by offering her the general manager position at Guam Visitors Bureau if she stepped down voluntarily from the seaport in order for the board to hire Joanne Brown as its general manager.
Again, she refused, telling the men she did nothing wrong and she would not just allow the employees to be punished for no good reason.
On December 10, 2012, Anisia Terlaje resigned as the Deputy General Manager. The board held a meeting that same day and Ms. Brown was hired to be the deputy general manager of the seaport an then designated as Acting General Manager.
On December 14, 2012 Ms. Brown started meeting with the employees who had been given the proposed adverse actions. At least one employee went with her attorney to seek clarification because the notice of proposed adverse action did not clearly state what the employee did that was in violation of the personnel rules and regulations. When she asked Ms. Brown to explain exactly what the port was accusing her of doing, Ms. Brown refused to discuss the allegations.
On December 18, 2012 Ms. Brown then signed the NFAAs, firing the six seaport employees.
The following day, gleaming from the perceived success of the witch hunt, Gov. Eddie Calvo wrote to the board and asked that they reward Ms. Brown with a pay raise for what she had done.
And she was rewarded. Many times over. Many of those pay raises were illegal and have yet to be released in a report by Public Auditor BJ Cruz.
Calvo wrote the letter on December 19, 2012, which was the day after the firings. Also on that day the Board held a Special Meeting and heard from Mary Torres. She told them in Executive Session that the report was flawed. She told them it was filled with inaccuracies and faulty legal conclusions. She warned the board that firing the employees was improper as they had done nothing wrong.
However, in their discussion regarding the report and the board-directed employee terminations, even Board Member Ed Ilao admitted he never read all the reports from legal counsel.
Board members said they were just going to rely on Mike Phillips and Joanne Brown. They didn’t need anything more. They certainly were not interested in the truth.
So the board listened to Mary Camacho Torres. They listened to her as she pointed out everything wrong with the investigation conducted by Mike Phillips. They listened as Mary Camacho Torres very thoroughly went through the report and refuted everything in it.
And then they fired her.
And then they laughed. They laughed because they had fired everyone just a few days before Christmas.
“Wait a minute” one board member said with the minutes reflecting that the board members were laughing. “Merry Christmas!”
Another board member laughed and said “Merry Christmas.”
Every single board member laughed at how they had just fired all of those innocent people and destroyed their lives only a few days before Christmas.
Coming up next in our Port 7 Series - Profiles in Courage
Below you can read for yourself some of the shocking actions of the board when they fired Senator Mary Camacho Torres: