Port responds to 'skyrocketing payroll' criticism - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Port responds to 'skyrocketing payroll' criticism

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - As one lawmaker claims skyrocketing costs for payroll along with questions on the rationale of several hiring, promotions and new positions at the Port Authority of Guam, Port members are fighting back. Raising concerns over the increased cost of goods as result of shipping expenses and its impact to the market and the community, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz wanted to gain a sense of how much the cost of Port operations have changed since Governor Eddie Calvo took office.

"So I FOIA'ed the Port, got a listing and it was about 60 employees; 30 of them if you notice on the listing are probational employees, those are brand new hires. There's some reclassifications, the total runs up to about $900,000," Cruz estimated. The vice speaker concludes that since the beginning of this year, the Port has hired new employees and either promoted or reclassified existing ones to the tune of nearly a million dollars annually.

However, board chairman Dan Tydingco says those positions are existing funded vacancies and the board's fiscal year budget has provided resources available to ensure that those positions are filled. He said, "So throughout the course of the year, people retire, quit or resign for a number of reasons or they're promoted and those positions according to management have to be filled accordingly to ensure the day-to-day operations of the Port."

Yet in his letter to Governor Calvo, Cruz came to the realization that the Port has become "a dumping ground for political hires on the backs of Guam's consumers." He said, "Mike Benito was saying it's not a political hire - I'll break it down for him and show the names that were at the Governor's Office that are now at the Port. So I didn't want to embarrass those people, but if they want to play that game, then I'll do it. But they really need to take that under control, that's too much money. $2 million in bringing in cost is going to affect us and bring it down below $0.52 to the dollar, it's going to take it down."

Tydingco meanwhile is unsure where those comments stem from and is flabbergasted by the vice speaker's comments. He asserts that those filling such positions competed for their spot and were not political hires. He said, "I think with Senator Cruz, the issue de jour with the last election for him was making assertions and allegations; for example, with the Archdiocese. Now, for this particular election, his focus is on the Port Authority of Guam."

Additionally, Cruz questioned the Port's consideration of creating two new assistant manager positions, which he says could bring the total increase in annual payroll close to $1.2 million, not including benefits. Port board member Benito says those two positions are justified, noting, "When the Port modernization finally kicks into place, this place is going to be pretty chaotic and they're going to need to ensure that they're going to have smooth operations at the dock."

He adds the positions are needed as the port is dealing with only one carrier resulting in more containers in a compressed amount of time. At today's meeting, Port management had noted that they are stretched pretty thin and need the assistance with the Port Modernization Plan and pola crane negotiation.

The board meanwhile noted the funding for these positions would not provide an excess financial impact to the port's budget. Benito says he is more than open to meet with the vice speaker to further discuss these issues. 

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