Whistleblowers

 

  

 

               

“We are only faced with the absurd when we take both our need for answers and the world's silence together.—Albert Camus

 

  First, Ted Lewis. The former Guam Memorial Hospital administrator was forced to resign in January 2016, amid credit card abuse investigation and sexual harassment complaint, which he believes had been fabricated by a core group of administrators who wanted him out of GMH. This was the consequence of him not shutting up. Then recently there was Dr. Kozue Shimabokuro, assistant administrator of medical services, who has been stripped off her administrative tasks and pushed to clinician work after repeatedly raising questions about the fiscal mismanagement at GMH.

 

 Hospital officials deny the allegations, but one can’t tune out the two GMH administrators’ familiar narratives, which are consistent with the classic ostracism of those who dare to speak out. This pattern goes all the way back to the controversial days of the very vocal Dr. George Macris, whose medical license and privileges were suspended by the hospital board in 2010.

 

 “The graveyard is full of fired GMH physicians that have been terminated for speaking out and being stewards of quality of care and patient safety,” Dr. Jerome Landstrom said in his testimony at a public hearing on the sales tax repeal. “These physicians typically leave the island and adversely affects the quality of care for the people of Guam that seek medical care at GMH.”

 

 Such state of affairs is not exclusive to GMH. There were cabinet officials in the past who had stepped down from their posts for reasons one could only speculate. One government attorney was fired from her job after being suspected of leaking information about a questionable tax settlement. The tax deal was sealed — unchecked. The lawyer is jobless. It is disturbing when the act of leaking gets more attention and treated as an offense more than the actual offense.

 

This is why many choose to seal their lips and look the other way. As long as no none blows the whistle, the culprits get away with their criminal mischiefs. “Accountability and transparency have been an expectation rather than a rule in government,” Doris Flores-Brooks said when she announced her resignation as public auditor to run for Congress.

 

The suppression ought to stop, according to Sen. Frank Aguon, who introduced Bill 301-34 to address “the tidal wave of corruption allegations and questionable decisions that have been made by leadership within the Guam Memorial Hospital, the Chamorro Land Trust Commission and the Guam Police Department.”

 

 The bill seeks to expand the current whistleblower statute by empowering classified and unclassified employees to sue the government if they receive retaliatory actions as a result of reporting or exposing inappropriate and illegal activities in the agency. “These whistleblowers, despite any harm that may come to them, their careers and reputations, have come forward to protect the best interests of the people and for this, they deserve the utmost protection and support,” Aguon said.

 

But whistleblowing and protecting the whistleblowers don’t really mean much if disclosure of bureaucratic anomalies becomes nothing more than to satisfy the public’s lust for bad news and scandals. The Office of Public Accountability has been blowing the whistle. Its audit reports are a catalog of what’s wrong with the government of Guam. But no prosecution follows. No one is held accountable. No one is in jail.

 

The Office of Public Accountability does not have prosecutorial powers. The Office of Attorney General has been passive since Doug Moylan lost his bid for reelection. Now he is back on the campaign trail, seeking to return to his old office, facing a contest of Frank Gumataotao who is running a campaign to prosecute corruption. Who will send the crooks to jail?  Whistle. The race begins.

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