Guam Republicans seek democratization of GVB board membership
Senators step in to quell tension at tourism agency
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
In a bid to dismantle the monopoly of big businesses, Republican senators today introduced a bill that would pave the way for small enterprises to take part in the policymaking process through membership with the Guam Visitors Bureau's board of directors.
“Although Guam law recognizes GVB as an autonomous agency, its board of directors must understand that the organization belongs to the people of Guam and not a handful of business executives,” said Sen. Telo Taitague, one of the authors of Bill 38-37.
“Bill 38-37 provides an opportunity for the GVB board to rebuild trust with the people of Guam – families across our island who rely on these individuals to make responsible decisions impacting Guam’s single largest industry," she added.
Co-authored by Sens. Jesse Lujan and Joanne Brown, Bill 38-37 proposes several amendments to the law governing the GVB amid a long-standing "drama" between the management and the board.
GVB President Carl Gutierrez has been at odds with key members of the agency's board over control of the bureau. The former governor has raised conflicts of interest involving certain board members, including chairman Milton Morinaga.
Guam law authorizes four of 12 board directors to be elected from the GVB membership, which comprises contributing members (each contributes $100 or more to GVB) and honorary members (each contributes less than $100 to the agency).
Currently, the law allows contributing members to acquire multiple voting rights based on one vote for each annual contribution of $100.
Bill 38-37 would remove the provision allowing multiple voting rights – clearing the way for small businesses such as food vendors, crafters, musicians and others to serve on the GVB Board notwithstanding the size of their company’s bank account.
“The current method of selecting members to serve on the GVB board makes it difficult, if not impossible, for small businesses across our tourism industry to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process which involves the expenditure of Tourist Attraction Fund revenues,” Taitague said.
Bill 38-37 intends to eliminate opportunities for well-funded members of GVB to monopolize or otherwise unfairly influence decisions including the allocation of TAF revenues for projects benefiting businesses that are owned and/or operated by certain members.
Unlike appointed directors, the four board directors elected by the GVB membership are not subject to disclosure requirements.
Under Bill 38-37, individuals appointed by the governor, the speaker, and those elected by the GVB membership, and the 12th director would be required to conform to the requirements of the Public Official Disclosure Act.
The bill proposes additional amendments to GVB’s enabling statute requiring the GVB bylaws and other adopted internal regulations to be consistent with other pertinent laws including those related to personnel and finances, and open government.
Under the proposed bill, the speaker's appointment of two directors would require legislative approval; the four elected directors would be chosen "in a manner that protects the confidentiality of the voting process."
The 12th director would be chosen by a vote requiring the concurrence of seven directors.
The transaction of any business would require seven directors to constitute a quorum.
Elected and alternate directors, the legislative director, and the 12th director may be removed for cause upon the vote of not less than seven directors; and a vacancy on the board of an elected director would be filled through selection by at least five of the remaining directors.
Lujan said last week's oversight hearing may have been canceled in an attempt "to cover up the dereliction of duty over the years by certain board members. If approved, Bill 38 will make it difficult if not impossible for current and future board members to continue such practices."
Brown said increased transparency creates public trust. "This is why I believe that Bill 38-37 must move forward as part of our broader effort to repair and address the issues with the GVB board," she added.