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Salas: documentation will be provided now

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Acting Fire Chief John Salas finally appeared before lawmakers for a roundtable/continued confirmation hearing on compensation at the Guam Fire Department. Hoping to suppress the fire of controversy regarding compensation at GFD, Salas sat in the hot seat Monday night.

Senator Tom Ada asked Salas, "Are you going to continue that practice?" At issue: whether Salas will ensure that proper documentation is submitted to Guam Fire's certifying officer to justify why - the now eight firefighters (previously 11) assigned to headquarters should be compensated at the same rate as firefighters who work 24 hours shifts, 106 hours plus 14 hours overtime. "I talked with my staff and I have instructed them from here forward we will be documented," he responded.

During the first roundtable, it was revealed that GFD's primary certifying officer did not approve payroll for admin assigned firefighters because they did not provide proper justification. Then Acting Chief Mike Uncangco stepped in, went straight to DOA, asking them to pay it anyway, "However, he said no; it should be the primary, which I understood."

According to Chief Unganco, the problem was resolved after the proper paperwork was eventually submitted. Senator Ada however wanted to hear from Acting Chief Salas where he stood in terms of respecting the certifying officer's role. Said Ada, "So can I be assured then that the certifying office is the certifying officer and unless she's absent or director feels or chief feels that she's absolutely in the wrong that she's gone outside your executive authority that she is the certifying officer no question about it."

"Yes, sir," Salas replied.

Looking at the bigger picture, Senator Aline Yamashita wanted to know what Salas' plans were to hire more administrative staff and moving firefighters back in the field where they're expertise is needed. Salas responded the problem is funding and Uncangco likewise said they've been requesting for additional civilian personnel for the past 15 years. "I hate to say this ma'am," he said, "but it seems like we're pleading on deaf ears."

Acting Chief Salas' appointment expires on April 4, which means lawmakers must vote on his confirmation at end of this month during session. Lawmakers like Mana Silva Taijeron are hoping to see a spark of energy from Salas. She said, "There are some though that describe you as being a weak leader. I believe that you do have a heart for GFD, but I'd like to see more of a fire lit up inside of you, so to speak, and I'd like to see the passion."

Taijeron saying firefighters should expect nothing less from their leader.

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