Secret recording details major problems at prison

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero

By Johnnie Rosario

(NOTE: There are several grammatical errors contained in the quotations attributed to the governor. These are direct quotes taken from the audio recording of the governor herself.)

(Tumon, Guam) Correctional officers told the governor that the biggest problem facing the prison is its director.

"The main problem we're having right now is the director (Samantha Brennan)," a Department of Corrections officer told Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero during a meeting among Correctional Officers and the governor Tuesday morning. Kandit obtained a secret recording of the meeting.

DOC officers detailed a long list of problems and sometimes became frustrated with the governor, who defended the actions of the director, provided information on some solutions, and admitted to being the person who decided to place the warden on administrative leave.

"The biggest problem - if you look at those two letters (sent to island leaders) - they have two things in common, and it is her (Brennan)," the officer went on to tell the governor.

"Why was a GPD officer, with all due respect to our brothers up there from GPD (referring to Ms. Leon Guerrero's bodyguards present at the meeting), why was a GPD officer placed as the deputy?" the officer asked the governor. "Why wasn't (Maj.) Antone Aguon, with a masters degree, why wasn't (Maj.) Mae Quitugua made the deputy?"

Ms. Leon Guerrero interrupted the officer, telling him curtly, "That was my decision."

He snapped back, "Well, we felt insulted by that."

"Well it wasn't to insult anybody," Ms. Leon Guerrero replied. "It was my decision because I felt there was so much conflict and things going on I wanted to bring someone in that was not familiar with all the inside politics that happened inside this organization."

The officer kept trying to speak, but the governor repeatedly interrupted him by speaking over him.

Officers revealed that certain correctional officers allegedly involved in the conspiracy that led to the downfall of former Lt. Jeffrey Limo still are employed at DOC and are the people from whom Ms. Brennan is receiving advice.

"The thing about it ma'am, is that the director is surrounding herself with - without seeing it - the people who were involved with the (Jeffrey) Limo... I'm just saying," another officer exclaimed. His colleague jumped in, saying "We gotta be honest, they're a crew!"

"I don't know who the Limo group is," the governor told them. "Who are these people?"

The officers changed the subject.

The governor admitted to the officers that the administration is "only one to two pay periods behind" in the payment of overtime to the officers.

"These officers and myself, we sacrifice a lot away from our families with overtime, and then we don't get paid," one officer told the governor.

An officer implored the governor to increase the number of correctional officers on the DOC force.

Correctional officer Douglas Wayne Mashburn, murdered by prisoners during a riot on June 24, 1987

"I don't know what we're waiting on," the officer posited to the governor. "Are you guys waiting for another Mashburn incident?" He was referring to the late Correctional Officer Douglas Wayne Mashburn, who was stabbed multiple times to death on June 24, 1987, during a prison riot at the end of his shift. He was the lone officer attending to the unit, where murderers and other violent criminals were held.

Mr. Mashburn was only 36 years old, when he died. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, his father, and his siblings.

The governor responded to the officer by telling him that she's working on streamlining hiring for DOC officers. The streamlining will include hiring unqualified officers, who will become qualified on the job as they become trained and attend Peace Officer Standards and Training certification. She said that 20 officers will be coming on line soon and that her goal is to hire a total of 100 officers.

Another officer told the governor that management is not providing the leadership needed for the force. He said the director is a poor manager and that she is causing officers to quit their jobs. "I don't know if some people here are scared of retaliation, but there are a few people here ready to quit, walk out, because the way things run. We go in there, we do our jobs, whether we're short or not. I mean, we try our very best. But on the other hand, anybody tell me here when anyone (in management) came up to us to say we're doing a good job?"

Several officers replied in unison, "Zero!," "Never!"

The officers said they don't have a problem with middle management. Their problem is with the director.

"Morale is at an all-time low," another officer told the governor. "I believe it is irreparable at this point. I believe any kind of mediation is futile at this point. It is our substandard leadership at this point. We're pleading with you: make changes."

"Our director should be out there trying to get money for equipment and to fix this facility," another officer said to the governor. "Our facility is junk. It is so bad. Our sprinkler system don't work."

The fire sprinkler system was a major point of contention in the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree against the prison.

"Our facility cannot hold anymore prisoners," the officer continued. The officer told the governor that the crowding issue is so bad that inmates are being mixed with detainees, calling it a major security and safety problem both for the inmates and detainees and for the officers. She said that several cell units cannot be used because of plumbing and electrical problems.

There's also a major problem with the so-called radio system the officers are forced to use to communicate with each other across the sprawling facility. Unlike the professional radios regularly used by law enforcement that work on closed circuits, DOC officers are using cheaper retail push-to-talk cellular phones that often go offline and prevent officers from calling in incidents or to get help when an unsafe situation arises. "It is hazardous," the officer said.

Several officers told the governor they fear retaliation and that some have been retaliated against because they spoke up about the lack of supplies to do their jobs and their disagreements with the director about operational decisions she's made.

One of the officers told the governor of an incident involving an inmate acting beyond control and who had begun punching the concrete walls. The inmate was so strong, that the concrete walls began to break. He said that the officer on duty was the only one posted at this particular unit and had called the director for backup and to activate the Special Operations Response Team, which the director had disbanded. No relief was sent by the director. That officer had to wait for a shift change, hours later, in order for the next officer to assist him to control the situation.

"I cannot work for her! I'm scared for these guys!" he pleaded with the governor.

Ms. Leon Guerrero also told the officers that it was her decision, not Ms. Brennan's, to place DOC warden Alan Borja on administrative leave.

"The reason I took the warden off is because of the escapee situation," she told the officers. "And it needed to be investigated. So I decided to take him off because of objectivity. It isn't because I don't like him, or any of that. I don't know who the warden is."

Ms. Leon Guerrero's admission may be a problem. She does not have direct supervision over the warden, who is a classified employee.

"We've had the privilege of serving with the warden, ma'am, and we can assure you it's not in his nature to be corrupted," one of the officers told the governor in Mr. Borja's defense. Another officer asked his colleagues whether any one among them feel the warden is corrupt; they exclaimed in unison, "No!"

"Since the beginning I said management is full of shit," one officer told the governor out of frustration. He explained to the governor that when Ms. Brennan started her job and began curving overtime, he didn't have an issue with that. It was her other measures that placed strains on the officers and kept life-saving equipment and supplies from them that has made the situation at the prison terrible. "Why do we need to save nickels and dimes when you guys already know the Department of Corrections is short?"

"The management we have, they can go screw themselves!" he told the governor. "What kind of managers do we have? Micromanagers is what we have."

The governor responded, "I just want to say, I really don't appreciate your language. I understand your anger. But I also am trying here to understand where you're coming from. And we cannot be dialoguing if we're going to be talking unprofessionally."

"I'm going to talk to Sam (Brennan) about the concerns you've raised," the governor said. "And rest assured I won't say your names because I don't even know who you are."

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