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Firefighter compensation discussed

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Acting Fire Chief John Salas called in sick and therefore was a no-show to this afternoon's roundtable discussion, which focused on compensation issues at the Guam Fire Department. But despite him not being there, there was definitely some heat.

After getting over the fact that Salas was sick and didn't show up what is being called a continuation of his confirmation hearing, Acting fire Chief Mike Uncangco was sent in his place and was in the hot seat when it came to answering questions regarding compensation eleven firefighters assigned administrative duties at headquarters at the same rate as firefighters who work in the field and pull 24-hour shifts. 

Guam Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks says it boils down to actually proving the firefighters assigned admin duties are actually doing the work for the 106 plus 14 hours overtime they're getting paid. Evidently its an issue the department's primary certifying officer, Marilyn Aflague, took issue with when she decided not to certify payroll for certain uniform staff because proper documentation wasn't provided to justify the extra hours.

"Those timesheets that didn't show any type of 24-hour work out in the field, I questioned and I said pending supporting document because they didn't show in their timesheets that they were out in the fire station," she said.

During today's roundtable it was revealed that Uncangco tried to bypass Aflague and called the Department of Administration directly to get those certain firefighters paid the extra hours, sounding the alarm for Senator Adolpho Palacios. "It was you that called the payroll?" the senator inquired. Uncangco said, "Yes, I was the one who called."

"And so...you made a direct payroll to go ahead and pay 120? Under what authority?" he further probed. Uncangco said, "Based on the authority that I am the acting fire chief at that point in time." A DOA rep responded to the senator, saying, "At the time, sir, the acting chief called DOA Payroll was not aware that he was acting. There was nothing in writing or memo that he was in an acting capacity."

Uncangco admitted to the committee that he went so far as bringing up the secondary certification officer to try to get those firefighters paid the extra hours. Bottom line for the committee chair he wants to hear from the real chief on the compensation issue. "I want to ask him is he going to continue that, does he have to do that to assign some officers in the office part-time and some officers at the nighttime? I want to hear it from why because in my opinion he doesn't have to do it."

One of those assigned administrative duties to headquarter is Captain Ed Flores, who in his defense says they're not trying to get over. "We're working extra hours, we're having to respond to other activities when we're normally off. And also cause to get additional duties, pickup additional training, in order to perform these so-called 'additional administrative duties that we didn't really assign ourselves to do. I never requested to go to headquarters," he said.

Senator Palacios says its critical that Salas needs to answer these questions so that he can complete the committee report. Salas's nomination to serve as chief expires at the beginning of next month, which means lawmakers would have to vote on his appointment during this month's legislative session.

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