Judiciary implodes with allegations of corruption, mismanagement, favoritism, lack of integrity, coverups, and unfairness. 

After over a year of murmurings and whisperings around the Judiciary, finally, the internal turmoil boiled over with a letter sent to the leadership of Palau and the media expressing frustrations and anger over what is allegedly very poor management of Palau’s 3rd Branch of Government, the Judiciary. 

The letter calls the administration of the Judiciary under Chief Justice Ngiraikelau a “bad joke” compared to former CJ Ngirakelsong’s administration.

Tellingly titled ‘HELP,’ the letter expressed frustrations of most of the court’s employees, according to the author, who helped contribute to the letter’s contents.  The letter also calls out to other branches of the government to help them. 

The letter accuses the Chamber Clerk of Chief Justice Lue Dee Dechol Kotaro of taking over tasks for which she was not qualified. She has been acting Deputy Administrative Director (DAD) for a couple of years and acting Management Information Systems Director. She is also acting Chief Archivist.

The letter claims that Ms. Kotaro does not follow the rules and regulations of the Judiciary, including not coming to work on time.  After being disciplined by the Clerk of Court, a memo from Chief Justice Ngiraikelau to the Clerk of Courts said that only the CJ approved Kotaro’s leave. In other words, said the letter, “it is telling the Clerk of Court to her leave alone as she is untouchable.”

Citing other questionable decisions by Ms. Kotaro, the letter mentioned her wanting to bear firearms.  The letter said that Chief of the Marshals Johnny Sokau “went to see the VP three times until the Vice President Uduch Senior wrote a letter citing a law that said only law enforcement officers are authorized to bear firearms.

The letter also alleges that Department Heads are afraid to counter Ms. Kotaro’s decisions as she has input into whether or not their annual contracts get renewed.  Further, the letter asserts that this was not an “insinuation” and that Chief Justice Ngiraikelau has made it clear that Ms. Kotaro is the Deputy Administrative Director and to comply with what she says.

Alleging further misconduct, the letter said that Ms. Kotaro had taken CJ’s statement literally and was having the Marshals come to her office to hand her paper from the printer and send them to pay and bring her pizza to her office.

Court employees’ morale is said to have declined since CJ Ngiraikelau and Ms. Kotaro took over the court management. 

“Just a few years back, it was an honor to work for the Judiciary, today, I am counting days until I retire and just leave this place.  I used to come to work believing I was doing my civil duty to my country, but to be treated in a way by some uneducated know-it-all, I have lost my trust in our system, and I feel like a guest in my own home,” states the author of the letter who remained unnamed for fear of retaliation.

The letter raised the issue of favoritism and unfair treatment, citing the case of one of the Court Marshals Keith Ngirchomlei.

It alleges that Court Marshal Keith Ngirchomlei occupies a position that was just created, did not exist before, and was “unnecessary,” a position for which he was not qualified.

The letter claims unfair treatment and misconduct. Ngirchomlei gets special treatment from acting Deputy Administrative Director Kotaro and Chief Justice.  It says Ngirchomlei is the only Marshal who comes to work in civilian clothes, overrides the Chief of the Marshals, and “gets away with it.”

Other allegations include Ngirchomlei punching a handcuffed individual and breaking his own hand.  It says the court took care of him and gave him paid leave and worker’s compensation.  However, when Mr. Ngirchomlei broke another Marshal’s finger while attempting to hit a handcuffed prisoner, that injured Marshal Tarkong Beches had his salary deducted after he ran out of sick leave and was not given worker’s compensation despite being injured while at work.

The injured Marshal Beches filed a complaint against Ngirchomlei.  The case was then filed as a misdemeanor case.  “How can an officer, a Sergeant, violently strike and permanently disfigure a subordinate and forever change their way of life both personal and professional and be a misdemeanor?” exclaimed the letter’s author.

The letter’s tone expresses a high level of frustration, anger, and helplessness. The author calls out other branches of the government, the Legislature in particular, for help. 

“Is this how the system works? Are you all going to sit in Our SEAT at OEK and NOT do anything about this?  I voted for you, and You are my Representative.  Please do your job and protect us and deliver us from this OMENGEDERBAS!!!”

These are just some of the incidents cited in the letter alleging serious corruption and misconduct in the management of the Judiciary.  (see letter on page 4)

“This is not a tattletale, but simply a cry for help as we are struggling to survive this perpetual darkness trying to do our duty in a toxic environment that is decaying our very thread of democracy,” concluded the letter.

Island Times reached out to Ms. Kotaro for her response but was not able to get a response in time for this publication.

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