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  • By Pacific Island Times Staff

San Nicolas wants to make ethics commission an elective body

Senator San Nicolas

The Guam Ethics Commission, created in 1996, exists only on paper, since it's never been impaneled, despite the many ethical matters that have surfaced in the years since it became law.

Senator Michael F.Q. San Nicolas has introduced Bill No. 221-34, which would make a seat on the Guam Ethics Commission a position elected by the people of Guam.

The Guam Ethics Commission was created with the enactment of Public Law 23-105, sponsored by then-Senators Ted Nelson and Ben Pangelinan, as well as Senator Tom Ada. The Commission is responsible for enforcing the standards of conduct for elected and appointed officials of Guam. The existing law regarding the Guam Ethics Commission charges it with enforcing standards regarding conflicts of interest, fair treatment, contracts, required disclosures, public officials receiving gifts, and other ethical standards.

In order to impanel the commission, San Nicolas' bill would make it an elected body. It would still have the same rights and powers of the Guam Ethics Commission as envisioned in the original law.

"Changing this from a politically appointed board to a board elected by the people would finally empower everyday citizens to impanel the Guam Ethics Commission and hold public officials responsible for violations of the standards of conduct for elected and politically appointed officials. These standards have existed for 21 years without having a Commission to enforce them," said Senator San Nicolas. "That should end now."

Since its creation, the dormant ethics panel has not heard any complaint despite the emergence of cases that purportedly involved violations of ethical standards.

The Guam Legislature has its own ethics committee, which came into action this year following a complaint filed by CNMI Rep. Ed Propst against Sen. James Espaldon who fell in hot water for his role in negotiating an $11-milion power plant deal with the Commonwealth Commission on Utilities on behalf of General Pacific Services Marianas Inc., a company co-owned by his former chief-of-staff, Phil Roberto.

On Sept. 19, the ethics committee chaired by Sen. Fernando Estevez released its report, confirming the violation of ethical standards and recommending that Espaldon be censured and mandated to take a 16-hour refresher course in ethics training.

The Legislature’s leadership has yet to act on the committee’s recommendation.

The existing powers and duties of the Guam Ethics Commission can be found here.


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