Local group questions suspension of open government law | Guam News

A local organization protests the governor’s suspension of the open government law, saying it “encourages abuse of public trust.”

The Vigilance Committee, an organization that promotes open government, wrote to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, questioning his decision to suspend a law that holds the government, its board of directors and its commissions accountable to the public.

The committee also requested “a copy of all public documents, citing specific sections of the organic law of Guam, laws, rules and regulations, which grant you, as governor of Guam, the power to suspend in part of the open government law. or in full, ”their letter indicates.

At a recent press conference, the governor said government meetings should always be open to the public. Executive Decree 2020-06 is only intended to improve government efficiency by removing “bureaucracy” or the requirement to announce a government meeting five days in advance, she said.

“Believe me, at Adelup and Homeland Security there are times when we need to make quick decisions and we need to bring in more people from an agency to make that happen,” the governor said at the conference. Press. “So I just want to make sure that we have this opportunity and that we don’t have to follow the five day rule.”

Michelle Armenta, chair of the vigilance committee, said the suspended sections “require the public to be notified of council and commission meetings, and because no one would know when a council or commission meets, any council and commission can meet without running the risk of public participation and so your executive order has created a situation which encourages abuse of public trust. “

It is during government meetings that councils and commissions must vote publicly on decisions that could change policy or determine spending, Armenta said.

She cited as an example the recent increases granted to leading public service managers. If the requirement to announce meetings or provide government reports was not allowed, the public would never have been aware of the increases, she said.

“In short, your Executive Order de facto repealed the Open Government Act and opened the door to what, in light of violations of the law by the Consolidated Utilities Commission and Commissioners of Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, allows intolerable harm, ”she said.

The vigilance committee recognized that dealing with COVID-19 requires measures that would not be considered under ordinary circumstances.

However, the committee notes, “drastic measures that abolish, even temporarily, the public’s right to know what its government is doing cannot pass without the strongest objection.”

“A simple change to the first sentence of 5 GCA § 8103 would allow boards and commissions to conduct their business while remaining vigilant to open government law and at the same time maintaining social distancing requirements.” This is how you can protect public trust, defend open government law, and promote transparency and accountability with social distancing, ”the committee said.

“Governor, we beg you to immediately revoke paragraph 5 of your 2020-06 executive,” Armenta said.

Non-profit organisation

The Vigilance Committee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to demanding compliance with the Open Government Act and the Sun Reform Act by officials and government officials; and promote means of improving the dissemination and disclosure of information to the general public.

In December 2019, the committee challenged the ethics committee, which had been formed earlier in the year, for failing to provide a committee report and budget request. The Ethics Commission, which is responsible for handling ethics complaints against government employees, held its inaugural meeting in September 2019, when it learned it had no budget and no staff.

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