Vigilance Committee: 'We will continue to watch ethics commission closely'
The Vigilance Committee expressed satisfaction with the Guam Ethics Commission's action that clarifies the process of appointing the body's executive director.
"The Ethics Commission has finally set the record straight. Because of the nature of its task, we will continue to watch the Ethics Commission closely to ensure that there are no more misrepresentations to the public,” Lee P. Webber, president of the Vigilance Committee said.
The committee said the Guam Ethics Commission took the necessary steps "to correct the false impression created by public statements made by the commission's chairperson and executive director."
Webber said the Ethics Commission must be held to a higher standard if it is to be successful.
"The vast majority of the ethical violations that the Ethics Commission would be dealing with will arise in the executive branch. Thus, independence and distance from the governor are essential," her added.
The commission's chair Shannon Murphy said the body was not funded until the current fiscal year, and now has a budget of $194,000, which will allow it to hire an executive director, who must be appointed by the governor, based on the commission’s recommendations and confirmed by the legislature.
"When asked for public records on the appointment and confirmation of an Ethics Commission executive director, the information provided was irrelevant to our request," the committee said.
"The executive director then publicly stated, 'We hope to put this into law so it's no longer debatable or up for interpretation that the commission in an effort to remain apolitical and independent, must retain that power to hire and dismiss its executive director."
The committee said the commission was not responsive to its earlier request for public records or a public explanation on which provision of the law the executive director deemed "debatable."
By adopting a resolution affirming the Guam Ethics Commission's appointment of Jesse John Quenga to serve as the executive director, the Ethics Commission has complied with the law, the Vigilance Committee said.
The Guam Ethics Commission adopted the resolution during its Feb. 12 meeting.
“I am pleased with the steps we have taken to ensure that it is the commission who would have the authority to hire and dismiss its executive director," Murphy said. “We believe it was the intention of the law, and the great desire of our community to have an Ethics Commission that is apolitical and independent, and this action makes that clear.”
Although established by law in 1996, the Guam Ethics Commission was never started until 2019 when it was activated through Executive Order 2019-06 under the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio Administration.