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Department of Corrections promotions deemed unfair

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Fighting for what he believed was right paid off for one longtime Department of Corrections employee.

"I'm not here to take away someone's promotion. I just ask the system be fair," announced Lieutenant Antone Aguon. And he was right: agency management wasn't fair when they promoted four employees late last year - two lieutenants and two captains. The promotions were investigated by the Civil Service Commission following Aguon's complaint. The audit showed there was no paper trail justifying protocol was followed in the selection process. As a result, commissioners unanimously voted earlier this month to void and nullify the improper promotions. Last night, commissioners voted to uphold their decision.

Commissioner Edith Pangelinan said, "I think that management should start the whole procedure all over. Reannounce positions and do the right thing. I think it's unfair. I don't think Mr. Aguon would've come to us if this was done properly. So I vote to null and void also the promotions."

Aguon was one of the candidates who applied for the promotion. He said, "I know the process was not done fairly. That's why I filed it. And as it turns out it was not. We have a general order that states how these promotions are supposed to be conducted - they did not follow the general order. We discipline our employees over and over when they don't follow the general order. Except management's not required to follow that."

In his defense, DepCor director Jose San Agustin addressed commissioners Thursday night. Although he concurred with the audit's findings, he stands behind the candidates who were selected. He said, "But I ask the commission this evening: don't penalize the employees that were selected. They were selected because they did meet the minimum standards. The other members or the other employees that did apply met the minimum standards and I'd be more than happy to promote each and every one of them if there were more positions open. 0422

"The question to ask is if you all do decide to null and void, then where do these employees go thereafter? They're going to have to come back to the Civil Service. If not, take it to court. So I ask that you all did a good audit valid on the findings. I take the responsibility and I'm sure DOA will do the same thing."

Not only would the four employees who were recently promoted have to re-apply, but Assistant Attorney General Monty May,who represents DepCor, questioned what would happen to their pay raise. "If this nullification stands, then we have four employees who have been paid for a period of months. If it was nullified than there would be a question of what to do about that. Whether they must reimburse the government or the government be bound by its own mistake," said May.

Commissioners last night agreed the employees shouldn't pay for the government's mistake, with chairman Luis Baza saying, "Why do we penalize the people for the payment they got in the last two or three months? Whatever the case may be. I'm not too sure if we have jurisdiction. But I'm putting it on the table that we shouldn't penalize these classified employees because it's not their fault."

Aguon noted he never questioned the qualifications of the other candidates. Thanks to the CSC's decision Thursday night, Aguon who already has over two decades of service with DepCor, hopes to continue advancing in the agency.

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