Legislature off island for 415 days...so far - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Legislature off island for 415 days...so far

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Senators AWOL...and there’s no way to hold them accountable to the public for the amount of days they miss. Senators used to accrue leave and cash it out in lump sums - even though they took days off and trips all the time, never signing for leave. But public backlash led to a public law banning senators from having leave at all. 

According to documents obtained from Speaker BJ Cruz’s office – senators have been off island a combined 415 days – and their term isn’t even over yet.

And that’s not even the worst of it – there’s no way to tell how often or for how long they’ve taken personal trips.

AWOL Senators
34th Guam Legislature
Total days off-island (so far)

Sen. Telena Nelson 88 days
Speaker BJ Cruz 65 days
Sen. Tom Ada 63 days
Sen. Mary Torres 56 days
Sen. Regine Biscoe- Lee 47 days
Sen. Jim Espaldon 32 days
Sen. Frank Aguon 19 days
Sen. Dennis Rodriguez 15 days

According to legislative rules, only the Speaker, the legislative secretary and the majority leader must notify the speaker’s office of all travel – personal or official. So while other senators must inform the body of official travel – the rules are wide open for personal travel.

Your top AWOL senators? Senator Telena Nelson tops the list – with 88 days off-island. In her defense, Senator Nelson is a captain in the Guam Army National Guard – her chief of staff says because of the classified nature of the senator’s work with the guard, she’s not able to disclose details about her travel.

Speaker BJ Cruz, noticeably AWOL during the current budget crisis special sessions has been off-island a total of 65 days – and only one of his 7 trips was official. The rest of the Speaker’s trips were “personal and medical” according to one of his staffers. Speaker Cruz is not seeking re-election.

Neither is Majority Leader Tom Ada, who has been off-island for 63 days. Senator Ada telling KUAM News all of his trips were personal – meaning Speaker Cruz and Senator Ada have gotten more than two months of vacation time on their farewell tours.

At least one senator has admitted to taking personal trips without notifying the legislative body – Senator Michael San Nicolas. Other than a trip to Washington DC with a head staffer – San Nicolas has taken three personal trips – two for “medical” reasons. A source at the legislature saying it’s common for senators not in leadership positions to take frequent personal trips.

Most of the senators’ excessive travel is personal in nature – meaning official travel costs are lower than in previous legislatures, but taxpayer money is still being spent at a rate that would make an average citizen blush.

Take for example a junket to a State Legislators’ conference in Boston. Senator Nelson and Senator Regine Biscoe Lee, along with two of Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje’s staffers racked up nearly $20K on the 5-day conference.

Will senators police themselves and institute a form of checks and balances to let the public know they’re willing to be held accountable for personal leave and absences? Don’t hold your breath.

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