OPA: 'Port 7’ settlements cost $4.5M
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Port Authority of Guam forked out a total of $4.5 million in legal remedies that settled the cases of seven employees who have been reinstated after successfully challenging the agency’s move to fire them in 2012.
According to the Office of Public Accountability’s report released today, the cumulative legal cost comprised $2.9 million in back wages, $700,000 for the port’s share of employee retirement contribution, $65,000 for Medicare tax plus $95,000 in interests, and $708,000 in attorney’s fees.
The report concluded the OPA’s three-part audit series of the back wages paid by the port management to the employees, who came to be known as Port 7.
The latest audit covered the settlements made with four of the seven employees.
“For the four employees covered by this audit, the port paid total legal remedies of $2.9 million, comprising back wages net of mitigation ($1.8 million), the port’s share of retirement contribution ($481,000), Medicare Tax ($46,000) and attorney’s fees ($576,000),” the report said.
The port employees were given their walking papers in connection with a worker’s compensation claim filed by Bernadette Stern Meno, the port's marketing manager, who was injured after slipping in a port restroom in September 2011. The individual settlements made with the Port 7 capped years of litigation that followed the employees’ dismissal from their jobs. “Our office would like to highly commend the port’s general adherence to the court orders and judgments and settlement agreements in its reinstatement processes of the seven wrongfully terminated employees,” OPA said.
“Their commendable decisions and actions were intended to make the employees whole and granted them salaries and benefits as if there were no work interruptions," it added.
Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz said the report “emphasized that in the implementation processes and execution of legal remedies for reinstated employees, the port needs to comply with its own policies, specifically with performance-based annual increments for all employees.”
He recommended that the port management "institute proper implementation of its policies and control procedures for good governance."