Hollowing Out Open Government Law Is Never OK, Even In A Crisis | Letters to the Editor

Congratulations to The Guam Daily Post! Sunday’s op-ed, titled “Transparency in Government Needed More Than Ever”, was correct. As the editorial so aptly put it, “There are ways to get things done in this government without limiting the public’s knowledge of the actions of their government.” Unfortunately for us, the governor issued two executive orders that not only significantly limited our knowledge of our government’s actions, but even attempted what amounts to a “hostile takeover” of the legislature.

The Executive Oder 2020-06 suspends seven sections of the Open Government Act, including sections titled Action Annulled plus Sanctions and Court Jurisdiction. This means that serious violations of the law, such as illegal executive sessions to raise salaries, cannot be stopped or punished. This executive decree also removed public notification requirements that the governor called “bureaucracy”. The governor created a situation allowing secret meetings that would result in criminal prosecution without his decree.

The governor doubled down in the 2020-07 Executive Oder, acting ultra vires his authority under organic law by ordering that the legislature can deal with matters with only one senator present in the session hall. So, in a few strokes of the pen, the governor allowed regulatory bickering, destroyed the public’s right to know what his government is doing, and violated the doctrine of the separation of powers by invading the province’s legislature.

These are serious matters that not only insult the people of Guam and their legislature, but also create the opportunity for great mischief. Serious as the two decrees are, the apparent mentality of a governor who so easily embraces such dictatorial power is even more serious.

The new coronavirus threatens us all. Social distancing and business lockdown must be endured and accepted. But gutting open government law and disrespecting the independence of the legislature can never be accepted, even in emerging circumstances, if it is preventable. The Consolidated Public Services Commission and the Guam Election Commission have demonstrated that this is possible.

At times like this, the governor would have been well advised to carefully guard the credibility she wasted with her decrees. A good place to start rehabilitating her credibility would be for the governor to deepen the offending executive orders, lest we think she intends shutting down the public’s right to know will be the new normal.

Robert Klitzkie is a former Senator and currently the host of the radio show “Tall Tales” on 93.3 FM

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