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Several senators took ethics class in '07

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - On Monday KUAM News reported about a report released by the Office of the Public Auditor detailing who took an ethics course in compliance with public law. The report noted that the course was last offered in April 2006 and six out of your current senators in the 30th Guam Legislature attended.

It turns out though that several more actually took the ethics course in February 2007.

Those lawmakers included senators Judi Guthertz, Frank Blas Jr., Jim Espaldon, Ben Pangelinan and Tina Rose Muna-Barnes. The course was lead by University of Guam professor Dr. Ron McNinch, who stated, "In my opinion, every official has their own individual responsibility to comply with the law."

According to McNinch, although public law requires elected officials take an ethics course within three months of taking office, there's no one enforcing the law or anyone really keeping track.  "Because really you can't train people on ethics, you can only make suggestions and cross your fingers and hope people follow them," he continued.

Senator Guthertz, who serves as the chairperson of the Legislature's Ethics Committee, actually helped author the law that created the Guam Ethics Commission.  That organization would be tasked with ensuring officials take the ethics course.  The idea was prompted by her students when she was a professor at the UOG.  "Unfortunately, the Commission has not been empanelled. The governor has to appoint members to the Commission. I would encourage the governor to appoint members to the Ethics Commission, so there would be the Ethics Commission that would oversee the compliance with the law," he said.

Guthertz adds that if the governor does not appoint members, then the Legislature has to look at other options to move the commission forward. Senator Guthertz, who has also led several ethics training courses, plans to amend the ethics law to require that all GovGuam employees take the course.

She said, "As a matter of fact, I taught a class as a public service for the Guam State Clearinghouse; and in that particular class, Senator Telo Taitague was a student.  This was before she took office. So I think you will find majority of the senators have participated in the required ethics training."

While Senator Telo Taitague confirms she did take the ethics course in 2007, both senators Tom Ada and Frank Aguon Jr. admit that they have not. KUAM News was unable to confirm whether Senator Matt Rector is in compliance.  In total, KUAM News has confirmed a total of twelve senators have taken an ethics course.

KUAM News also spoke with officials from the Attorney General's Office, who confirmed that AG Alicia Limtiaco, along with her former chief deputy, likewise took an ethics course in August 2007.  As we reported on Monday, the following senators also took an ethics course in April 2006 with the Guam OPA: Speaker Judi Won Pat, Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz, and senators Rory Respicio, Eddie Calvo, Ray Tenorio and Adolpho Palacios.

In the meantime, the University of Guam is hosting an ethics in public service workshop on January 13 at the Governor's Complex at Adelup from 9am to 5pm. Those interested in registering for the course can contact McNinch at 475-9380/4.

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