Guam’s quest to secure over $200 million in a bond offering hit a major stumbling block yesterday. Standard & Poor’s dropped Guam’s bond rating to “B,” two grades below junk bond status. S&P cited the stagnant economy, the unfunded liabilities of the GovGuam Retirement Fund, and the susceptibility of an economy based solely on tourism as reasons for dropping the rating even lower.
Suffice to say this will make in near impossible to float the much-hyped bond measure that the Camacho administration is touting as the answer to all of Guam’s worries. At the very least, an additional $20 million in premium insurance will have to be taken out against the chance of Guam defaulting on the bonds. Looking at Guam’s economy, I’d say chances of not meeting our debts are high.
I must applaud Doris Brooks and her Office of the Public Auditor. She has been tireless in ferreting out corruption and abuse in GovGuam. Her latest tour-de-force is the final review and audit of payroll practices at the Department of Corrections. This story initially broke back in November of 2002, when it was revealed that personnel at the prison were taking home 3 times their base pay in undocumented overtime, hazardous pay, and holiday pay. Now that the audit is complete, she is sticking to her guns, pressing for tighter controls at the prison, and forwarding the audit to the attorney general for possible prosecution.
She found all sorts of chicanery going on at DOC, including exempt supervisory employees collecting overtime.
We also found that the Chief Parole Officer reported a total of 1,055 hours of overtime in FY2001 and a total of 458 hours by the nine months ending June 2002. These constitute overtime costs of $40,654 and $17,649, respectively. The Department of Labor, in its January 2000 audit report, did not specifically address the Chief Parole Officer�s exempt status (see summary in page 8). However, the Chief Parole Officer�s responsibility does not appear to meet the non-exempt criteria stated as he wields supervisory and administrative power over the DOC�s Parole Services Division. Therefore, we concluded that the position of the Chief Parole Officer may not have been duly authorized to incur overtime.
She also detailed the adventures of the facility superintendent, who collected 62 hours of overtime and hazardous duty pay in a three day period that he was transporting a prisoner back to Guam. This story was featured in a media report last November when the superintendent appeared on the evening news defending his overtime as a cost cutting measure. Try and figure that one out.
Danny Yee reviews the venerable fantasy Earthsea Trilogy. Excellent books, each and every one.
The year after I left Beloit College, Ursula K. Le Guin held the Mackey Chair in Creative Writing for one year and taught a number of classes. I always regretted graduating too soon. I would have loved to take a class with her. And not just because she is an excellent author, I regarded her father as valuable role model in my anthropology glory days.
Yesterday’s big story – former Mass Transit general manager Tony Martinez changed his plea before the Superior Court to guilty.
Astute watchers of the shenanigans on Guam will remember Martinez’s case as one of the first examples of government corruption under the Gutierrez administration. Martinez was caught with his hand in the cookie jar in 2001, when allegations came to light about his abuse of the Mass Transit Authority’s credit cards to purchase computers, airplane tickets, hotel rooms and other sundry items for his personal use and the benefit of his family. He was indicted in March and originally plead innocent.
Martinez agreed to pay restitution to GovGuam, plus a $7,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service. At his sentencing in July he can expect to receive some jail time as well.
His cohort in crime at GMTA, Tony Diaz, was also indicted in March. He plead innocent and his trial is scheduled to begin on September 12.
Remember me mentioning the meteor strike south of Chicago last month?
Well today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the damage one of those meteors caused, and the actual 10 cm meteor lying on the floor of some guy’s computer room. Damn – that’s gotta suck. The guy should feel lucky though, he was sitting at the computer when the meteor burst through the ceiling, smashed his printer, put a divot in the wall and finally came to rest on the floor. That could have been his head!
Real time chat, with Deep Space Nine? Yes, the interplanetary internet is on it’s way. According to this article from Space.com, NASA is planning on putting a couple satellites on the internet in the next couple years, and they plan to do the same for future interplanetary missions. I think it would be pretty damn cool to get an email from Pluto.
Everything you’ve ever wondered about Google – all in one place.