Guam governor suspends public meeting rights due to virus

HAGATNA — The governor of Guam temporarily suspended some parts of the Open Government Law in response to the coronavirus outbreak, including the public’s right to attend government meetings.

Democratic Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed the executive order Tuesday to suspend open meeting rights through April 13, The Pacific Daily News reported Wednesday.

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Guam Attorney General Leevin Taitano Camacho recommended suspending sections of the Open Government Law, Leon Guerrero said.

Boards and commissions in the U.S. territory will be required to keep minutes and provide meeting information to the governor, lawmakers and the Office of Public Accountability.

The governor is authorized by Guam law to suspend the operating rules for government agencies during a public health emergency, she said.

Guam declared a health emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak, closing schools and businesses and placing arriving travelers under quarantine. Residents have been asked to practice social distancing.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Guam had 37 confirmed cases of the virus and one death as of Wednesday, officials said.

“Public attendance at public meetings will make it difficult to comply with the social distancing directive,” Leon Guerrero said.

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Public notice requirements under the Open Government Law could make it difficult for the government to act quickly, she said.

“So we can efficiently meet if we have to meet,” Leon Guerrero said. “So people can work very expeditiously to address the crisis as it happens. It is my hope this suspension will end on the 13th of April.”

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