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 5: The infamous slip and fall
CHAPTER 9: A moral compass that never wavers
By Troy Torres
(Tumon, Guam) This is the second time I was involved in the Port 7 Scandal directly. The date was December 5, 2012. The setting is the Governor's Office. Mary Torres, the general manager of the seaport at the time, had just been placed on leave by the board.
"Troy, the governor is calling you to Chambers," his assistant, Joy Unpingco, told me on the phone intercom while I was in my office in the upper west wing of the Adelup governor's complex.
As I walked into the lobby, Gov. Eddie Calvo's chief of staff at the time, Franklin Arriola, pulled me to the side before we both walked into chambers:
"Troy Boy, listen up, this is big. We finally got Blondie (referring to Bernadette Meno). Mike Phillips and his guys finished up their report and it's bad. It's more than Bernadette. Are you familiar with Vivian Leon?" - Frank Arriola
I didn't know her; never met her at the time.
"Listen, anyway, what these guys are saying is that Bernadette did her thing with the travel and then Vivian and five other port employees there tried to cover it up. But here's the thing, I don't know what you're going to advise the Gov once we have our meeting in there, but look, we've got a reelection coming up and I know Anisia wants to do her bullshit in there and get rid of Vivian and all these people. But this is a numbers game. We have to be realistic here. Plus, check this out. I don't like Mary. I'm the last person here who will stick up for her, but for fuck's sake she's a Camacho. She's Felix's sister! Dan and Mike think we need to get rid of her because she signed some of these documents. But if we do that, 1) there's the Camacho thing, and 2) Anisia also signed it, that dumb fuck. How are we gonna get rid of Mary and not Anisia?" - Frank Arriola
He gave me the report of the Phillips investigation into the workers compensation claim. The document was called a Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law, and it was detailed. There's no way anyone but the seaport party waiting inside Chambers already had read it by the time decisions were made. Those decisions were made about 20 minutes after Frank and I walked into that room.
We sat on the couch with its back facing the Philippine Sea. Rose Ramsey, the governor's deputy chief of staff, sat across me in one of the two chairs in that ornate setup on the lower east quadrant of the Governor's Chambers. Mr. Calvo sat at his desk. Joanne Brown, the director of Public Works who was waiting to be named either the deputy general manager or the GM of the seaport - depending on the outcome of this meeting - sat on the round table across the room. Seaport board chairman Dan Tydingco, vice chairman Mike Benito, and legal counsel Mike Phillips stood near her, small Christmas trees and ornaments behind them.
"Gov, there's no doubt in my mind that Bernadette did this and that these six others helped her," Mr. Phillips started. "But worse than the crime - worse - is the cover up. They tried to cover it up!"
The attorney described the contents of the so-called Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law prepared by his investigator at the time - John Bordallo Bell - and went on to tell the group assembled in Chambers that there was no evidence that Ms. Meno had sustained a workplace injury, and that the seven workers implicated in this report conspired to enrich Dr. Steven Hayashida through what Phillips termed an unnecessary spinal surgery. He said that each of the workers played a role in trying to push through a so-called 'illegal' workers compensation claim, and that when they got wind of the Bell investigation, they attempted to cover up their actions.
NOTE: The undisputed medical and administrative evidence that has since been revealed clearly shows that Bernadette Meno indeed suffered a workplace injury, that the seven workers followed every procedure and practice (except for one mistake regarding the amount of per diem during the proposed medical trip), and that the only cover-up that took place was on the part of Mike Phillips, Joanne Brown, Anisia Terlaje, and two additional players whom we will introduce in later chapters of this investigative report: Frank Roberto and Paul Salas. Our report will go into these matters in future chapters.
Mr. Tydingco explained that the port board had decided that the seven employees - Ms. Meno, Vivian Leon, Francine Rocio, Jojo Guevara, Josette Javelosa, Frances Arriola, and Leonora Leon Guerrero would be fired. (NOTE: Ms. Leon Guerrero would not be fired until February 2013).
"The outstanding matter, Gov, is regarding Mary and Anisia," Mr. Benito said. "Both of them signed these documents. I think we need to give Mary the boot because she is so dead set against this, but we can't do that without getting rid of Anisia, but she's our girl. She's loyal. So the question is, can we find her a soft landing? And if Mary won't sign the final notices of adverse action against these guys, and she's still the GM, but Anisia is willing to sign these papers but she needs to go, then we have to find a way to make Joanne the GM right away."
"I don't have a problem with that, but let me ask you guys, and let me ask my team here, is all this really necessary?" Mr. Calvo asked everyone in the room.
"Gov, I get it with Bernadette," Mr. Arriola responded first. "Get rid of her. But I don't know if anyone else in this room is thinking practically about all of this, but we have an election in two years and what you all are saying here is 'Let's fire all these people.' These people all have families. They all have their circles. And then there's the rest of the port. Are we going to end up alienating all these families from Agat?"
"And that's why, Gov, I agree with Anisia that Vivian Leon needs to go," Mr. Benito interjected. "Unfortunately these other guys are collateral damage, but Bernadette and Vivian are our problems. If we're thinking 2014 here, Vivian has influence at the port and those families can make or break us in Agat. If we want to win down there, then we need to get Vivian away from the port and all those families from Agat and Santa Rita."
"I disagree," I added. "I just wonder if we're considering the consequences here. This is Bernadette we're talking about. She's not going to go away quietly. Are we prepared to deal with the fallout from this?"
"Getting rid of Bernadette is a done deal," Mr. Calvo snapped back at me. "I know Bernadette is your friend," he said facetiously, "but let's not forget that Bernadette did this. Let's not forget that she made that fake Blueprint platform. She was against us."
"You're absolutely right, Gov," Mr. Tydingco said. "They did this. They were all in on it, and they tried to cover up. It's all in that report. You can't have any of them at the port, even Mary. Just make a clean cut. Get it over with."
"Governor, with all due respect, I agree with Frank and Troy," Ms. Ramsey spoke up. "All of this started because Anisia is a fucking idiot, excuse my French, governor. If she had flagged this from the beginning, then none of this would have happened. So what now, we have to risk 2014 because we have to clean up this mess for her?"
Mr. Calvo took a few minutes to consider everyone's advice before Mr. Tydingco told him that the proposed notices of adverse action had been served to everyone except Bernadette Meno.
"We can't find her, she's not at work," Mr. Phillips told the governor. "And if it's ok with you, we'd like to dispatch port police to serve her. It's a standard thing that we can do."
"Do it," the governor told Mr. Phillips. "Get this done, he said to us all."
We had our marching orders.
The Calvo administration would spend the next six years with a gravedigger trying to bury seven innocent people.