by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Over the last several months the Port Authority of Guam has been hit with a tsunami of controversy. Under siege from concerns from the Guam Legislature about its legal services contract and modernization plans, and then there's the termination of several Port employees - including its former general manager. We now hear from the person tasked to navigate past this negativity and move the port full steam ahead toward prosperity.
"I wasn't tasked here to keep the status quo," Joanne Brown said sternly.
Having served as a multiple term senator, and as former director of agencies such as Guam EPA and the Department of Public Works, she's no stranger to controversy. But at the Port Authority she's seen things she hasn't seen before. "Unfortunately, there are others here who don't have visible and as public positions that the average person will know who they are. And because of that they've been able to build their own little kingdoms and I will say that, their own little kingdoms and wheel-and-deal the public assets here and the people of Guam here at this port for their own," she continued.
Brown says she noticed that there was a pattern of employees taking leave without pay for long periods of time without working consistently but expecting the port to keep their jobs on hold for them. The GM says there are layers of issues at the port because there's been a history of these practices being accepted-something she attributes to the lack of stable management at the Port as there have been 11 general managers over the past ten years.
Since Brown came on board she's issued more adverse actions in six months, than in the past two years she previously served as director at DPW. As a matter of fact, she was brought in during the highly controversial termination of several Port employees for their alleged role in a scheme to defraud the Government of Guam and then cover it up.
And while she's received criticism for the number of adverse actions and "cleaning up house" at the Port, Brown disagrees with claims that have been made that there is a climate of fear and retribution. "It is unfortunate that they've interpreted it that way," she noted, "but I will say that I've sensed very much a resistance towards that. But if you think not doing your job, if you think coming to work on drugs if you think not performing your job properly or because you're action is causing danger to yourself or to other employees here at the Port, damaging Port equipment - if anyone thinks that finding that acceptable is creating a climate of fear, then I don't agree with that.
"But you have a select few who have been catered and coddled for quite some time and feel like they get to keep it that way. And me and management are getting in the way of that."
At the end of the day, despite the criticism of her leadership and allegations of a climate of fear and intimidation, she remains port strong and recognizes and appreciates the hard working employees who come in each and every day who do their jobs and do it well saying the ultimate mission is to make the port more efficient and effective.