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Court allows funds abuse case against Guam education official to proceed



 By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

 

A trial court judge today upheld a lawsuit filed by a Guam senator against a former education official over alleged misuse of federal funds resulting from improper overtime payments.

 

Superior Court Judge Arthus Barcinas denied a motion to dismiss filed by Ignacio "Ike" C. Santos, former federal programs administrator at the Guam Department of Education, paving the way for the case to proceed.


Thomas Fisher

The complaint, lodged on July 5, 2023 by Sen. Thomas Fisher, involved Santos' alleged involvement in certifying unauthorized overtime compensation worth more than half a million dollars using federal funds.

 

The case stemmed from the Office of the Public Accountability’s audit, which detected discrepancies in overtime payments made to ineligible employees at the Federal Programs Division then headed by Santos.

 

The OPA’s investigation found that in fiscal 2021 the department incurred $640,055 in overtime payments, “all of which were supposed to be reimbursed by federal funding for the Covid-19 response.”


"The time is now to uphold accountability and safeguard the integrity of our institutions. With each denial of dismissal, we draw nearer to uncovering the truth and ensuring justice prevails,” Fisher said.

 

Santos has asked the court to dismiss the case and issue a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that Fisher did not have personal knowledge related to the funds’ release, which the federal program administrator claimed was approved by then superintended Jon Fernandez.

 

The court agreed that “additional fact-finding is required to complete the

 record and determine whether there is truly no genuine issue as to any

material fact.”

 

And in order to make such a determination, the court said, Fisher “must first

 be given the opportunity to conduct the proposed discovery."


“Today's ruling reaffirms our unwavering commitment to protecting public funds and serving our students as intended," Fisher said.




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