Law enforcers demand 10% raise
by Nick Delgado
Guam - Several years ago lawmakers passed a bill that provided 40% raises to law enforcement and public safety personnel in the government in an attempt to retain and recruit employees in that field. The new fiscal year was supposed to come with another ten percent increase, but that isn't the case. A town hall meeting was held today, discussing that very issue.
"Maybe we need to go the AG to file a criminal complaint because by law they're supposed to give us the 10%," complained Sergeant Cecil Sulla, with corrections officer Jimmy Camacho adding, "You're telling these people that worked hard for their money that are never there on typhoons, that are never home, they leave their family - that you guys are not going to follow the law that you guys passed, for crying out loud?"
Frustrations ran high in the Guam Legislature's Public Hearing Room this afternoon. Dozens of law enforcement and public safety personnel were visibly concerned to learn that their 10% raises were not included in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
Guam Police Department Lieutenant Joe Carbullido and others wonder if public safety is even a priority of the government, as he said, "I'm reemphasizing law enforcement is the people that you don't really wan to mess with, because those are the people that respond to any calls the public has."
Public safety oversight chair Senator Adolpho Palacios explained that the 10% hadn't been budgeted for because of a $13 million appropriation that had been made for the implementation of the Hay Study for all government employees. He stressed that the compensation study implementation is not yet law, as draft legislation sent by the governor must first have a public hearing.
"This is the time to present those issues," the Democrat policymaker stated. "Senators, let us implement the 10% first because that's law and then let us decide on the Hay Study; maybe you can delay that until next year why because it's not yet law."
And Attorney Dan Somerfleck added, "If there is $13 million there, then put a supplemental in and say 'Before we do the Hay, let's pay off our obligations to our public safety officers'" - an announcement that was met with great and applause.
The Department of Administration has asked the Legislature to repeal the remaining 20% owed to public safety personnel and instead implement the findings of the Hay Study.
Captain Reuben Olivas with the Guam Fire Department said, "These very same people who are saying no funds - Ms. Perez from DOA no funds, the Public Auditor no funds, Bertha Duenas [BBMR] no funds, yet they give themselves a bonus. Apparently there's some money somewhere." And police Major Leon Ryan said, "You expect high standards of law enforcement. You expect us to go back to school and all of that to get promoted, but yet a Secretary I makes more than a Police Officer III. You gotta serve justice to law enforcement - don't shortchange us!"
While there's discussion about amending the governor's Hay Study bill to appropriate $8 million for the public safety raises, personnel may not be willing to wait for the government to follow the very law they're sworn to uphold.
Sergeant Sulla continued, "If the law is being violated, there's a crime and if there's a crime there has to be a complaint. But like you said, it's still in the precursory stage - if we don't get paid next payday and they said they don't budget, can you help us go to the AG's Office to file that complaint?"
"What you need is enforcement," replied Senator Palacios. "You don't need another law. I say it again: if the governor wants to pay the 20% - not the 10%, but the 20% - do it. It's law."