by Mindy Aguon
Guam - A federal judge will hear several motions this week in the ongoing permanent injunction case involving the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities. The motions include the plaintiffs' motion to replace the federal management team that was appointed in March 2010 to help bring the Government of Guam into compliance with the amended permanent injunction.
In the last week, the plaintiffs' attorney, Daniel Somerfleck, and Assistant Attorney General David Highsmith filed motions with the court expressing concerns about the federal management team that consisted of Dr. James Kiffer and James Casey. But according to court documents, Casey resigned due to health problems last week around the same time the Attorney General's Office filed a motion with the court to have Casey removed because DMHSA staff had made repeated reports of a hostile working environment and alleged verbal and physical abuse in the workplace.
Highsmith provided numerous incident reports from DMHSA staff and consumers who had been the victim of the alleged verbal outbursts or racism or those who had witnessed the incidents. The government attorney said that Dr. Kiffer would be able to manage the duties of the FMT by himself at this time.
Attorney Somerfleck meanwhile has asked the court to remove the FMT and appoint an outside professional manager with the powers of a receiver. According to his motion, "The FMT is just as ineffective as the defendants...and the litigation has gone far too long with capable leadership to remedy the ongoing harm." Somerfleck took issue with the team's failure to demonstrate meaningful progress and expressed continued frustration with the "Same tired excuses that were given by the defendants for years. The FMT has been in charge for two years and no matter how many resources, personnel or time divided to DMHSA and DISID, without capable leadership providing direction all efforts and resources thrown at DMHSA are ineffective."
Somerfleck added, "Plaintiffs are no better off than they were two, four, six or even ten years ago under the defendant's control." Instead, he says taxpayers have been paying $60,000 a month for the two managers, an administrative services officer, and a receptionist while the team has failed to provide any information or assurances that the needed services are being delivered to the plaintiffs and those similarly situated and the FMT has failed to timely complete numerous activities as required by their own plans of action and even after being on the job for nearly two years, the current plan is still three years from the projected completion date.
Dr. Kiffer is scheduled to meet with the judge in chambers on Tuesday while the court is expected to hear various motions during a status hearing on Wednesday including the governor's motion to stay the payment schedule pending approval of an amended plan of action.