DOE staffer on yearlong sick leave gets pay raise - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE staffer on yearlong sick leave gets pay raise

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - A government employee on sick leave for the past year -  it's possible, depending on how much time you've accrued...right? But what about getting a pay raise while not only on leave but possibly without even having to undergo a required performance evaluation?

This situation among many others confronting the Department of Education, has prompted oversight chair Speaker Judi Won Pat to call for an oversight hearing.  Despite the lack of funding in the DOE, former Facilities and Maintenance Manager Ken Calvo has received over $1,500 in increments, a nearly $500 increase in retirement benefits, and nearly 300 more for medical benefits since September of last year. According to the staffing pattern on the DOE web site, Calvo's total salary and benefits spiked from $66,101 in October of last year to $66,525 in January 2010.

"How he's able to do this, unless of course the man is seriously ill, but I haven't heard that," said Won Pat.  "I don't think that sick leave is for you to ride out and finish it without having any medical problems, that's my understanding of what the law says and the requirement of a doctor's note."

While he continues to receive pay from the agency that has called itself cash-strapped for years, DOE employees who confirm with KUAM News that Calvo has been on sick leave for the past year have raised concerns. Won Pat says she is puzzled with the issue.

She stated, "If an individual hasn't been on the job maybe for a year and he's able to receive increment without being evaluated to be observed that he's performing, then something's grave fully wrong there, and somebody needs to look into this, I think the superintendent needs to look into this.  She would have to sign-off on this as the final signature at least unless one of her deputies did it."

However, DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood admits that she is unaware of any increases being given inappropriately in her department.  "The increment is provided by law, so I will look back as to whether that was inappropriate, but all the increments that are put forth follow the standard operating procedures," the superintendent noted.

DOE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Taling Taitano says she too does not know how much sick leave Calvo has accrued, but she does say that employees receive the increases based on their annual performance evaluation, which means Calvo had to have been on the job in order to receive more pay.  "I'm not familiar with how much sick leave is generally accrued, but as long as you're on a paid status government employees accrue both annual and sick leave," she said.

While top management in DOE say they are not familiar with Calvo's situation, KUAM News contacted Calvo himself to find out how someone who has been on sick leave for as long as he has been can receive such increases.

Our calls were not returned or answered again after a brief conversation in which he refused comment about his situation.

In the meantime, Calvo's replacement, Billy Cruz only could say about his former boss, "I don't know that's a personnel issue, I leave that to the superintendent to answer, I am not in a position to answer that question. But since the day I took over things have been getting much better, we've been making our A's and our B's and hopefully none of our school closes, but we have a lot of things ahead of us and a lot of work that still needs to be done out there."

Amidst the controversy, Underwood says it was just late last week that Calvo informed her of his plans to leave the agency for good, saying, "He had given us notice that he would like to resign at a certain time and I'm not sure when that is but he's given us notice."

Calvo's issue is just the needle in the hay stack of problems that has now forced Speaker Won Pat to call for an oversight hearing on DOE. Won Pat says she will be sending questions to the superintendent hoping to hold the hearing by next month.

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