by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The appeals of seven terminated Port Authority of Guam employees could be resolved by the end of the summer, as the Civil Service Commission scheduled motion hearings for the workers who are fighting to get their jobs back. The CSC held a brief status hearing this afternoon in the case of three of the seven Port staffers terminated for their alleged involvement in a scheme to defraud the government and then cover it up.
Marketing administrator Bernadette Stern Meno, corporate services manager Vivian Leon, controller Jose Guevara, personnel specialist Frances Arriola, personnel services administrator Francine Rocio, program coordinator Josette Javelosa, and planner work coordinator Leonora Leon Guerrero have all denied any wrongdoing as port management and legal counsel have accused them of participating in a conspiracy to defraud the government out of close to $100,000 and then allegedly falsifying documents. The terminations all stemmed from Meno's alleged slip-and-fall incident in the Port bathroom in September 2011.
Meno initially denied medical treatment at the Guam Memorial Hospital and then more than nine months later asked to see Dr. Steven Hayashida, who Port workers referred to as the "Port's surgeon". Hayashida, who was already on contract at GMH, recommended Meno go off-island to Hawaii where he would perform surgery on her back at a price tag of more than $66,000. There are disputes about who extended Meno's original ten-day trip to fifteen days and why she was to receive 300% more per diem than she was entitled to.
Yet the employees have filed motions to dismiss the adverse action taken against them on various grounds including that management waited too long to take action against them, exceeding the 60-day rule.
Meno, who is scheduled for a status hearing on Thursday, is scheduled to argue her motions on April 16 and 18th when she intends to call former Port general manager Mary Torres. Meno intends to prove to the Commission that Torres was the GM at the time and refused to sign-off on Meno's adverse action. Torres has said the terminations were politically motivated and a result of an investigation and report that was filled with inaccuracies, distortions and poorly reasoned legal conclusions.
Arriola is scheduled to appear for a motion hearing on April 18, while Javelosa is scheduled for May 23 and Guevara for June 6. Leon Guerrero is also scheduled to appear for a status hearing on Thursday. Rocio and Leon are scheduled to have their motions heard on August 1.
Meanwhile, during today's status hearing CSC staff mentioned that they expect the attorney general's legal opinion on the status of Port board of directors members Dan Tydingco and Mike Benito, possibly by the end of the week. Commissioners are waiting on that legal opinion to help guide them with some of the motions to dismiss that have been filed.
The opinion was requested by Port oversight chair Senator Tom Ada, who argues the two board members are illegally serving on the board as he believes their terms have expired. Ada believes the two were appointed to fill the unexpired terms of previous board members, but Adelup believes Tydingco and Benito were appointed to fill three-year terms.
Of note is that Senator Ada has said he is second-cousins with one of the terminated employees, Vivian Leon.