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Port's board seeks legal action on Brown's retroactive pay raises

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Former GM: Two current board members were among those who approved the salary adjustments in question

Sen. Joanne Brown

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


The Port Authority of Guam’s board of directors is seeking legal redress on retroactive salary adjustments received by Sen. Joanne Brown when she was the agency's general manager prior to her return to the legislature.


Citing an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s Office, the board on Wednesday passed a resolution urging Port General Manager Rory Respicio to take action on Brown’s pay raises.


In a statement issued later, Brown said two of the board members who voted for the resolution were members of the panel that approved the pay raises they were now questioning.


" Port Authority of Guam general manager Rory Respicio has been tasked with procuring a misdemeanor prosecution against two of his bosses, Frank G. Santos and Nathan T. Taimanglo," Brown said.


Citing the law, Brown said, "Any person who authorizes a pay raise which is retroactive in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

"Santos and Taimanglo were members of the board when the allegedly illegal acts occurred and are members now. Board counsel and GM Respicio apparently have interests that conflict with their two bosses," Brown said.


"Ordinarily we could expect the board and GM, with the assistance of counsel, to unravel ethically sticky matters. However, given Rory’s profession of his desire to compromise the 'Port 7' cases at his first meeting with the board coupled with throwing in the towel and settling on the 'Port 7' rather than letting the cases be resolved on the merits, we should all be wary."


In seeking legal action against Brown, the board cited the Office of Public Accountability’s audit report, released last year, which raised a red flag on nine salary adjustments received by Brown since she was hired at the port authority until her retirement in 2019.


"Of the nine pay adjustments provided to the former general manager, seven were due to formal performance evaluations and two pay adjustments were as a result of PAG’s Compensation and Classification Plan," OPA said, noting that there was no record of formal performance review by the board of directors.


"While the board of directors ratified the October 2016 and September 2018 pay adjustments, the former general manager’s pay adjustments from October 2013 through February 2018 were not ratified," the audit said.


Brown had a base salary of $158,153, which went up to $164,970 under the Port Compensation and Classification Plan for Unclassified Employees at the 25th market percentile, which was adopted on Aug. 28, 2018.


OPA said the law requires governing boards to conduct performance evaluations of the agency's chief executive six months after appointment and every 12 months thereafter. The PAG board did not review Brown's performance in 2017 and 2018.

Rory Respicio

Speaking before the board on Wednesday, Respicio said “it is clear” that Brown’s salary adjustments “were applied retroactively” in violation of the law which prohibits retroactive pay raises.


In response to Respicio’s request for a legal review, the AGO provided an earlier opinion on a similar question involving the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority.


According to Port Staff Attorney Christine K. Claveria’s legal memorandum dated Nov. 18, Guam law prohibits unclassified employees from receiving retroactive pay increases unless specifically authorized by statute.


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She said the law states that any person who authorizes a pay raise that is retroactive in violation constitutes a misdemeanor crime.


“The law is clear: Guam law prohibits retroactive pay unless expressly authorized by statute,” Claveria stated in the memorandum. “There is, however, no authority for the PAG general manager nor the deputy general managers to receive retroactive pay increases.”


This story has been updated to include Joanne Brown's comments.


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