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    Friday, June 22, 2018-12:15:44A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Sen. Aguon’s bill to empower GovGuam whistleblowers

HAGÅTÑA — A rash of allegations of government corruption and apparent retaliatory actions imposed on whistleblowers has prompted Sen. Frank B. Aguon to introduce a bill seeking to protect public employees who expose wrongdoings in their respective agencies.

Aguon’s Bill 301-34 would empower 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,” said Aguon, a gubernatorial candidate.

Frank B. Aguon

Aguon said Bill 301-34 seeks 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 current whistleblower statutes to include protection from retaliatory actions of unfavorable or inequitable treatment against employees disclosing information of government corruption.

“No appointing authority or supervisor shall initiate or administer any disciplinary action or unfavorable or inequitable treatment against an employee on account of the employee’s disclosure of information,” the bill states.

Aguon also expressed support for Sen. Dennis Rodriguez’s Resolution 345-34, which calls for the creation of a Special Investigative Committee that would look into anomalies at the Guam Memorial Hospital.

“Any administration charged with running the government of Guam, and subsequently, the leadership within our agencies should have the resources and protections necessary to ensure that whistleblowers are supported and their welfare monitored,” Aguon said. “This measure will not only protect these brave whistleblowers, but also encourage others to come forward.”

The move to strengthen the whistleblower protection law came amid several allegations made by former GMH administrator Ted Lewis, who revealed billing malpractices, questionable payments to physicians and suspicious recruitment contracts at the hospital.

Lewis, who was forced to resign in January 2016, amid credit card abuse investigation and sexual harassment complaint, which he said believes were fabricated by a core group of administrators — allegedly coddled by Gov. Eddie Calvo — who wanted him out of GMH.  While he was the hospital’s CEO, Lewis said Medical Director Dr. Larry Lizama and CFO Benita Manglona shut him out of the decision- making process when he started pointing out the “severe financial issues that needed to be corrected.”

Lewis claimed Calvo’s alleged cronies at GMH were out to protect the interest of governor’s family business — SelectCare, the largest insurance provider at the hospital.

Earlier this week, another administrator, Dr. Kozue Shimabokuro, assistant administrator of medical services, testified by the Guam Legislature, where she revealed being stripped off her administrative tasks and pushed to clinician work after repeatedly raising questions about the financial mismanagement at GMH.

She also alleged the GMH administration fabricated a payless payday scenario in an effort to force the Legislature to pass new tax measures and a borrowing proposal.

GMH officials, however, denied all these allegations.

Meanwhile, the gubernatorial team of Lourdes Leon Guerrero and Joshua Tenorio is calling for  an independent management audit of GMH.

“We are saddened but not surprised by the ground shaking revelations expressed to the Legislature on Monday by GMH physicians and professionals. We thank all those who testified so courageously,” the Guerrero-Tenorio team said in a statement.

“As a member of the Board of Trustees that led the hospital to full accreditation in 2010, I know that GMH is capable of so much more.  But clearly, well-meaning personnel at GMH are subject to an environment of fear and intimidation, used as a pretext to levy a sales tax and strong arm our Legislature,” Leon Guerrero said. “Trust in our hospital and the political leadership has taken a serious setback.  People do not trust the answers they are getting and the vital work of the hospital is sinking deeper into a morass of finger pointing and politics.”

Leon Guerrero called on the Office of Public Accountability and the Attorney General’s Office to contract an independent audit on the hospital’s finances, management and operations, immediately.

 “We further call on the executive and legislative branches to act decisively to remove all administrative, funding, and technical obstacles that may stand in the way of conducting this audit, swiftly and responsibly,” she said. “While GMH has been audited numerous times in the past, these audits mostly focused on the hospital’s adherence to Government Accounting Standards.  A comprehensive management and financial audit commissioned by the AGO or OPA can get to the bottom of the wide-ranging concerns raised by our community.”