Problems noted with GFD leave earnings
by Nick Delgado
Guam - The Guam Fire Department taking some heat in a new audit released today from the Guam Office of Public Accountability. Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks calls it simply unfair, uniformed employees of the Guam Fire Department afforded "extraordinary opportunities to take home far more than their base pay" and receiving "bonus compensation" when on leave.
Auditor Franklin Cooper-Nurse said, "You have firefighters at the end of the year making 71% over their base salaries and if you look at the report you have some chiefs making over $100,000 and really it's, I believe, 78% of all firefighters make above $70,000."
However, all of it appears to be perfectly legal. The audit shows GovGuam employees make up to 80 hours of leave, while the standard for firefighters is 106 hours. As a result, GFD automatically gets the 14-hour difference between 120 and 106 as overtime every pay period. Also by law, firefighters cannot be charged more than 45 hours of leave per pay period. Thus, while on leave for two weeks, GFD uniformed personnel are assessed only 45 leave hours and still get paid for 106 hours out of the General Fund.
It's what DOA categorizes as non-productive pay on leave and the attorney general refers to it as "bonus" compensation. Despite her vote in favor of the law and co-sponsoring the measure during the 20th Guam Legislature when she was a senator, Brooks today says this practice has cost the government more than $6 million in the last four years, or about $1.6 million annually.
"The work schedule should not be defined in law, no other cost of employees work schedule is defined in law and that herein lies the problem," she said. "Leave is a benefit given to all Government of Guam employees, not because you are a fire fighter or not because you are an auditor or not because you are this or that position, leave like health insurance is given equitably to all employees regardless of the nature of work they perform."
The audit also notes 258 firefighters on leave were paid 62 to 80 non-productive hours beyond the number allowed by law resulting in questioned costs of $3 hundred 47 thousand. Brooks says three fire chiefs in 2010 earned an average of $111,000, 43 captains got $93,000, 76 specialists for $81,000, 76 Firefighters IIs got $76,000, and 64 Firefighter Is got $65,000.
The Guam OPA does recommend that an amendment be made to the current law so that the hours of the GFD are assessed. Until the law is changes, GFD management is urged to comply to limit non-productive pay on leave to a maximum of 61 hours and leave not to exceed 106 hours per pay period; and explore different avenues to reduce firefighter overtime.
Public Safety Oversight Chair Senator Adolpho Palacios says he is not surprised with the audit findings, and first requires the attention of the governor. Adelup could not comment on the audit at this time, and GFD officials are reviewing it. Palacios says if the governor's office agrees then he would move forward with making amendments to the law, as he feels it will not impact GFD services.
Said Palacios, "In no way will it be diminished, it would be more efficient, it would allow for funds to hire more personnel, but to hire personnel now with the current compensation practice, I recommend there we a reconsideration of that."