Should Fat Trimming Start At Adelup? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Should Fat Trimming Start At Adelup?

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With the looming government financial crisis, here's a closer look at some of the salaries in the three branches of government...starting with Adelup.

Trim the fat. In addition to generating revenue through tax hikes, that's what the Government of Guam will have to keep its head above water from here on out. Where to cut, though? Well, nobody thought public safety would be on the chopping block first - but that's exactly what happened when Police and Fire chiefs - at the direction of the administration - closed two fire stations and the Hagatna precinct.

GOVGUAM STAFFING PATTERN

LEGISLATURE STAFFING PATTERN

In what many called a political move to force senators to pass the Governor's tax increase bill - GFD acting Chief Joey San Nicolas jeopardizing lives by shutting down the Astumbo and Piti fire stations to save $2.7 million in overtime.

Ironically, that's about how much the administration pays its senior staff of 7 and 21 special assistants. Taxpayers foot the bill to the tune of $2.8 million for these unclassified political hires. The average compensation package for each of them - in salary and benefits -$98,436 per year.

And Adelup says they're worth every penny. "If you want people of a certain caliber to be able to provide this level of work, this amount of work, they should be compensated appropriately," Governor's communications director Oyaol Ngirairikl said. "That's how the private sector does it, that's how the federal government does it."

It's debatable that these special assistants would be able to command such high salaries in the private sector though. Take for example, Margaret Metcalfe. She lost her bid to become Guam's congresswoman, but she still went to Washington DC - as Adelup's DC Liaison - and she costs the people of Guam over $100,000.

$100K Club

Rose Ramsey Gov Deputy Chief $131,723

Joe Duenas LT Gov Chief of Staff $124,046

Eric Palacios Special Assistant $109,242

Oya Ngirairikl Spokesperson $106,597

Amanda Blas COD Director $103,979

Margaret Metcalfe DC Lobby $102,530

"When you talk about Margaret, one of the things we want to make sure of is that we always have a face in Washington DC," Ngirairikl said. "It's hard because we have a congresswoman who doesn't have a vote. She does work very closely with the Congresswoman's office as well." I spoke with a source at Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo's office - and they said Metcalfe is "nowhere to be found in DC and hasn't reached out for help".

Metcalfe isn't the only person at Adelup breaking six figures a year. The $100,000 club - salary and benefits - the people of Guam pay for it all. It's a far cry from when the administration took office in 2011 - salaries and staff much lower - in 8 years the number of special assistants has doubled - and Adelup has proved to be a great place to work for some - Deputy Chief of Staff Rose Ramsey started at $79,000 in 2011 - now she's balling out at $104,000 a year. 

Back in 2011, Governor Calvo didn't need a legal opinion or bill to cut his senior staffs' pay - which he did - saying the savings would go towards paying tax refunds. Fast forward to 2018 and Ngirairakl says although fire and police stations were closed - salary cuts to political hires are still being discussed. "We've never shied away from the fact that we're going to have to do it if we have to," Ngirairikl said of a possible pay cut.

Who assists the special assistants? A total of 55 unclassified "staff assistants" in the administration - total compensation on average for each of them - $57,498 for a cost to taxpayers of $3.2 Million. "You should compensate people for the work and responsibility that they're expected to carry out," Ngirairikl said.

So not necessarily on their qualifications or experience?

"Um... that should absolutely come into play," she said.

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