By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has vetoed a bill that would ban government hiring of convicted individuals, saying the measure, if enacted, could expose the government of Guam to costly litigations.
While Bill 30-37 would be presumed to apply prospectively, the governor said the language of the bill may be misinterpreted to apply retroactively.
The bill prohibits government agencies from hiring or continuing to employ individuals who are convicted of official misconduct.
“Instead of simply prohibiting employment of individuals convicted of official misconduct after the bill's enactment, it may be misinterpreted or misapplied to apply retroactively to current government employees who were convicted
of official misconduct in the past,” Leon Guerrero said in her veto message.
She noted that some of the current government employees who may be impacted by such misinterpretation are classified employees protected under local laws as well as the Organic Act of Guam.
The governor warned that the bill, if signed into law, might not withstand legal challenges.
Leon Guerrero said the bill in its current form may lead to constitutional violations and result in extensive litigation at taxpayers' expense, and at the expense of these individual employees.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous rulings, the governor said Guam courts reject retroactivity of laws,“ which is disfavored due to the absence of fundamental fairness and notice.”
“Elementary considerations of fairness dictate that individuals should have an opportunity to know what the law is and to conform their conduct accordingly; settled expectations should not be lightly disrupted,” the governor said, quoting a Supreme Court decision.
Leon Guerrero said she acknowledged that the bill was designed to hold “those
who have committed official misconduct accountable” and to prevent them from “committing any future misconduct within the government.”
However, she added that since the bill touched on important rights, “it is
necessary to employ more precise language to clarify the prospective application of the bill, to ensure enforcement of the bill does not run afoul of the Organic Act protections afforded to current government employees, especially classified employees.”
While compelled to veto the bill, the governor expressed willingness to work with the legislature to draft legislation "that removes this ambiguity and complies with constitutional principles and governing laws, while accomplishing
the legislature's ultimate goal of refining restrictions against the prospective employment of individuals convicted of official misconduct."