DOE forcing non-disclosure forms on staffers - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE forcing non-disclosure forms on staffers

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - The Department of Education is requiring employees under its Personnel and Financial divisions to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure policy. Officials have said that such is necessary to protect employees, but it leads one to question whether the agency has the authority to do so. 

It was about a year ago that DOE staffers within DOE's Personnel Division were forced to sign a non-disclosure policy that restricts them from revealing or discussing with any person, group or department outside or inside of the department, any confidential information involving the agency. According to DOE Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood, it's a standard operating procedure that was implemented to protect the rights of employees.

But DOE is taking this non-disclosure form further, by now requiring employees working in their finance division to sign a confidentiality agreement. Underwood defends it's not a gag order - but rather an avenue to protect employee privacy as well as ensuring whatever information is going out to the public is accurate.

"The form was reviewed by the legal counsel. He found it to be in compliance with the Sunshine Act. We also know that within the Sunshine Act, there are certain information that we can't disclose," she said.

Employees under these two divisions are the only ones required to sign the form. Dr. Underwood contends that a collective decision was made for employee protection. She says these employees need to be held to higher standards because they deal with sensitive information.

"The intent here by the managers who had implemented this was not to put a gag order. They know that by policy, my practice as a leader is really to open up the department to the public. We are a public institution that and we're funded by the public. Therefore, the public is entitled to see everything that we're doing," she said.

And while DOE is forcing employees in the affected divisions to sign non-disclosure forms, KUAM News has learned the Department of Administration - which oversees and processes all Government of Guam hires - doesn't require their employees to sign such forms.

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