Able Industries CEO talks against allegations
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - As more and more allegations have surfaced about alleged mismanagement at the island's largest employer of individuals with disabilities, the CEO of the company is speaking out, refuting the claims and assuring the community of the viability of a company that employs more than 200 people. "I think it's a good thing gone sour for people with disabilities," simply stated Frank Florig.
"I think that they've lost sight of why it was founded to begin with, and I personally think that Able Industries is being used by some as their own personal checking account."
Florig, the president of Guam Special Olympics, has plenty to say about the non-profit organization for which he once was a board member. "We would question spendings, abuse of credit cards, abuse of per diem. You take a per diem for a travel and you use the company card to pay these things that the company should be paying for and then accounting has to chase after you to make good on that," he added.
According to depositions and expense reports filed in a pending civil suit in the Superior Court of Guam, in a case dealing with who actually should run Able Industries, Able's credit cards were used to pay for items like an airline ticket for the CEO's wife, lodging and per diem and dozens of meals as well as purchases at Walmart, Borders, Macy's and others.
"Well," commented Able Industries CEO and president Joaquin Leon Guerrero, "it's a difference of opinion." He contends allegations raised by Florig, who was removed from the board; and Johann Sobredo, who was hired as a consultant for the company and others are unfounded. Sobredo spoke out several weeks ago alleging significant mismanagement and calling on authorities to investigate the situation at the company.
"The chairman of the board - again, I can't get into specifics - but the chairman of the board investigated the allegations and found them groundless," he stated. Leon Guerrero claims the mismanagement was the other way around, alleging that Sobredo attempted to use his position for personal gain and failed to make good on his contract with Able. He noted, "We refute every single allegation that Johann Sobredo made.
Leon Guerrero defends the board and management's actions, saying the company has completed its first audit by Deloitte and Touche and is undergoing a second audit now. "They found no evidence that the current board or managers were in any way, shape or form benefiting outside of their compensation and benefit packages," he told KUAM News.
"We've posted profits both '09 and '10, so the company is strong and the company is growing," he added.
The CEO doesn't deny that the board and management has used company credit cards for personal use, but stresses that Able's credit card policy allows for the purchases to be reimbursed. "So you haven't used these company credit cards to travel first class to the States?" he was asked. "No!" he responded. When then asked if he was saying the money has been repaid, he replied, "The money has been repaid and the amounts were very insignificant compared to the credit card usage."
Said Florig, "They fear losing their job if they spoke out or if they see something going bad or if they ban together to correct a bad working environment." But Leon Guerrero stated, "I know for a fact that it is not true. The only person who is saying that is disgruntled former managers and disgruntled former board members who are no longer associated with Able, but I know for a fact that there is no climate of fear pervasive in the company as indicated."
In fact, Leon Guerrero maintains the viability of the company has never been better - the company took 15 years to employ 86 individuals with disabilities and in the last three years, management has been able to triple the number of people working for the company. But the assurances from the CEO aren't enough for former board members and employees who believe there's still improprieties that need to be investigated.
"I really would hope the employees would ban together," Florig said. "They knew then when I was voted out of the board, they knew then and they know now that abuses are continuing even, perhaps, as we speak."
Leon Guerrero also said, "As far as any other allegations that Mr. Florig may have made, he's been off the board for over a year. There have been a lot changes in the organization that's he's not aware of and I'll just let it go at that.
NISH is a national non-profit agency whose sole mission is to create employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities by securing federal contracts through the AbilityOne program for its network of community-based, non-profit agencies. Leon Guerrero confirms NISH is expected to make a routine visit to the island soon and also look into the allegations that have surfaced but he's confident nothing will be found.
The CEO also clarified allegations that Able pays rent to Century 21. Leon Guerrero says able pays the owner of the Jay Ease Building and he established offices off the military bases to create better accessibility for individuals with disabilities.