February 18, 2013
Governor Fitial must go!
Reform activist Glen Hunter, who has led the campaign to rid the CNMI of corruption, was terminated by his employer, Coca-Cola Beverage Company of Guam and Micronesia, Inc.
Ex-felon, Diego Blanco, acting on behalf of corrupt Governor Fitial, strong armed Glen's employer to terminate him because of his political activism. Apparently, the governor and his felon pal thought the boss could convince Glen to stop exposing and opposing the governor's corruption if he thought he could lose his job if he didn't stop. They were too stupid to know that not everyone can be threatened, blackmailed or bought off by corrupt schemes. Glen Hunter has integrity, a quality the governor and his thugs do not possess or understand.
The contrast between the governor and his thugs and Glen Hunter is like night and day. The governor and his thugs are vindictive and corrupt. Glen Hunter is noble and honest. The governor and his thugs use threats and blackmail to meet their goals. Glen Hunter uses truth and facts to educate the public.
Glen wrote this statement:
In October 2012, I was informed that Diego Blanco was trying to get me fired. Diego Blanco, acting on behalf of Governor Fitial, attempted to intimidate the companies that employed me with threats of a boycott and loss of government contracts because of my public statements against government corruption. He also contacted one of the company’s shareholders with these threats and asked for the full name of my boss, Johnnie Fong, because he wanted to look into him further.
I was disgusted, but not surprised, to receive this information. Since coming into power, this administration has operated on fear and shown itself more than willing to employ the thuggish tactics of agents like Blanco. I immediately went to my boss, Fong, and informed him that Blanco, an ex-convict, was looking into his past and making threats against the company.
Fong had already spoken to the shareholder and was very concerned. He said that he, and the shareholder, were both under strong pressure by the administration to do something about me due to my political stances. Although Fong didn’t think a boycott would have any effect on the companies, he was worried about a loss of contracts for the shareholder. I told him that that is a huge problem with this island that needs to change: government officials interfering with private business for purely political reasons. A governor should not have the power to dictate to a company who to hire and fire. As long as people – and the business community - are silent and do as they are warned, this extremely anti-business practice will continue, and the economy will continue to suffer.
After a lengthy conversation, I told Fong that he could simply follow the law, not give in to political thuggery, and tell the administration to go to hell. I told him that the problem was not me speaking out against public corruption, but a government leadership that makes political threats against private businesses. Fong asked me to speak to the shareholder, which I did. The conversation was very similar. The shareholder told me that the administration was pushing hard to have me removed and to silence me. He was also not worried about the boycott threats, but he was concerned about the contracts. He asked if there was any way I could quiet down on politics, at least until after the election. I answered honestly and told him that I would not stop being an active citizen. I assured him that I did my job very well and received accolades. My political stances had no impact on my business performance. He said that he heard nothing but good things about me and my job, and then he asked again if there was any way that I could be a bit quieter on my personal time. I said I did not see a need to change anything I was doing or saying on my personal time, and if anything I believed that businesses need to change and begin confronting the political pressure publicly – that things will never change here unless people and businesses stop cowering to the threats and thuggishness of a government we pay for. He laughed a bit and we parted.
A few days later Fong handed me a letter that stated I was to be suspended for 30 days without pay, due to my “personal political positions.” The letter at the same time praised my performance as a “very loyal and committed employee.” I told Fong that I did not think his chosen course of action was right. He said it was a decision by the board of directors and himself. Because the board only had the side of an ex-convict and a vindictive administration, I decided to appeal the decision. I wrote a detailed and lengthy letter to the board, and explained that on principle alone I would not accept the suspension and I asked for a complete retraction. A few weeks later the company’s Guam-based Human Resources director contacted me and said that the board had decided to retract the suspension and to pay me in full for the time that I was off. She asked if this was acceptable. I agreed and returned to work in late November.
In the months that followed my return to the company, Fong avoided me completely. Then, on February 14 the HR director flew in from Guam and asked to meet with me. She handed me a letter that said I was being released from employment effective that day. The letter indicated that due to the “uncertain economy”, the company was reevaluating positions, and that my position was deemed “non-essential”. She assured me that this termination had nothing to do with the earlier suspension incident. I took the letter and left the company.
I am not advocating a boycott against my old company. There are many good people who work for the company, and I have no interest in harming them. In truth, I pity Fong and other businessmen like him who feel forced to abide by directions given from the powers that be. I think there are important lessons that can be learned from the experience. For me, the appropriate response is first, exposure. My firing is only one of many acts of political retaliation that we have seen in our community, and I encourage anyone who has been subject to that to speak out and expose this administration for what it is. There is simply no justifiable reason why anyone should be threatened with loss of employment for their personal political positions or desire for a clean government. A governor and his thugs should not have the power to oust qualified people from their jobs, or to dictate business decisions in the private sector. We can take that power away.
People like Fitial and Blanco believe that their retaliatory actions have the power to strike fear and silence those who oppose their corrupt agendas. But they only have that power if we let them. I lost my job. So what? Life goes on. I lost respect for the people I worked for the moment they caved into this corrupt administration’s tactics, and I am more determined than ever to continue speaking my mind.
We all need to continue speaking freely, standing up against corruption and intimidation, and pushing for clean government. Corruption harms everyone, and it hinders our economy. Change is not easy but it is absolutely essential for our community and economy to move forward. Only a concerned and active citizenry can advance that change, and that citizenry includes private businesses. We are already seeing a new generation of government and business leaders who recognize the need for change. I truly believe there is so much hope for our islands, so much worth fighting for, and so much positive change happening right now. Let’s keep up the momentum.If Glen hasn't already contacted the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor to see if he has a case, perhaps he should.
Isn't threatening or blackmailing a private company illegal? Can a government official tell a private company that it must prevent an employee from exercising his First Amendment rights or lose business and leases? Do the government contracts with this company involve federal funds?
Shame on Johnnie Fong, president of Subway Restaurants and managing director, Coca-Cola Beverage Co. (Guam) Inc./Foremost Foods. What a horribly unethical and sleazy move.
Even though Glen shows incredible graciousness to his former employer, his employer allowed pressure from a corrupt official to unjustly terminate an employee. A better move would have been for the company to contact the USDOJ and report the blackmail. What an unethical move on the part of this business! Despite Glen's statement that he doesn't support a boycott, a company like this does not deserve business.
Glen Hunter is a hero. Coca-Cola's loss will be another company's gain. I imagine that numerous businesses will be asking him to join their companies. I wish Glen Hunter the very best!
You can contact Glen's former employers to tell them what you think of their disregard for First Amendment rights and defense of a corrupt governor here. Speak out against this disgusting act.
Read the letters that were sent to Glen:
October 24, 2012 Suspension Notice That admits threats from officials:
November 21, 2012 Suspension Retraction Letter
February 13, 2013 Termination Letter