Judicial Council faced with $500K shortfall - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Judicial Council faced with $500K shortfall

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The Judiciary of Guam will continue operations and normal working hours for employees as the Judicial Council today voted to defer implementation of the Law Enforcement Adjustment Pay to prevent reduced work hours for all court employees. But the possibility of a 32-hour workweek may still be a reality later in the fiscal year. 

"For this current fiscal year, we've not been able to pay the ten percent mandated for the law enforcement," stated acting administrator of the courts Robert Cruz. He provided Judicial Council members with the current dilemma, explaining how the third branch of government anticipates running out of money before the end of the fiscal year if they were to implement Public Law 29-105. The measure mandates 10% raises up to 40% for law enforcement throughout the island's public sector, including marshals and probation officers.

Personnel actions were cut for the raises but there's just no money because the mandate never came with an appropriation.

The predicament left the court to develop several options. Said Cruz, "The 32-hour workweek was essentially we've been working with these hours and that would really mean a 20% across-the-board salary cut from the chief justice all the way to facilities, including marshals and probation. We have the 36-hour workweek, which is essentially a ten percent across-the-board pay cut for all 350 employees."

Other options included a 10% across-the-board pay cut with staff continuing to work 40-hour workweeks or deferring the Law Enforcement Adjustment so there would be no cuts to hours or salaries.

Chief Marshal Ed Toves and Chief Probation Officer John Lizama told Council members they surveyed their staff and the majority were in favor of implementing the third 10% increase, saying they simply want what is rightfully and statutorily mandated to be theirs. "So based on the survey, 51% of the probation officers feel the 10% needs to be paid out; the remaining 49% would prefer to defer it with an understanding in writing that we the probation officers will get the 10%, the third 10% increment as well as the fourth 10% in the next fiscal year," Lizama said.

Toves noted, "Another concern they also wanted me to convey: the outstanding 2009 second 10% retroactive from October to November is still outstanding, so you should consider that as well when you request for additional funding."

After some discussion about other cost-cutting measures and other options that wouldn't negatively impact the entire Judiciary, Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido made a motion to defer the increases and keep operations status quo - at least for now. "We'll still come back to the council in reference to this compromise and in a show of good faith to our employees that we're just not ignoring the obligation, we're not ignoring their circumstance but we will then bring to the council the implementation of a 32-hour workweek for the last payroll in the fiscal year in exchange for funding that one quarter," said His Honor.

While law enforcement professional at the court won't be seeing their 10% raises, they along with the rest of the Judiciary may be getting retroactive pay for the government's brief implementation of the hay study from October of last year to January when the governor suspended the program. The Judicial Council today was going to approve a resolution, after receiving the funding, to pay the hay study to all court employees, but tabled the matter until next Thursday at 5pm.

Also of note is that the Judiciary has requested $1.2 million more in their Fiscal Year 2012 budget to pay for the current year and next year's 10% increases. The Administration, however, did not include the law enforcement adjustments in its biennial budget submission to lawmakers. There is a pending civil suit in the Superior Court seeking a court order to force the government to pay the mandated raises. 

The judge ruled that the Judicial Branch of GovGuam cannot order the legislature to appropriate the money and there is currently a motion to reconsider before the court.

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