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More receivership for GovGuam?

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - The Government of Guam could see the imposition of a second federal receiver.  District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall is considering the possibility after hearing the request from the plaintiffs' attorney, who says basic services and adequate care is not being provided.

But government officials say another receivership would be too costly.

Seven years is long enough to have waited for the Government of Guam to provide even the most basic services to his clients who have been fighting for proper treatment and care.  It's a sentiment Attorney Daniel Sommerfleck expressed this morning when he asked the federal judge to impose a receivership on GovGuam.  "I would describe it as a cake where there's icing with no cake," he said.

Just this morning he received a petition signed by twenty-two consumers in support of his motion and his efforts to impose a receiver with a wide scope of authority.  "Everything every authority a director would have would transfer over to the receiver," said Sommerfleck.  That includes the right to hire or fire personnel, break leases, enter into contracts... Whatever it takes to further the goal of compliance with the court orders and permanent injunction.

The government, however, cited the Dixon case in the District of Columbia where a receiver was appointed but they noted that the goals and objectives still haven't been met. Attorneys for the government also expressed concerns about what it will cost the people of Guam.

Mental Health Clinical Administrator Dr Andrea Leitheiser told KUAM News, "The judge can order for our purse strings to be open and it can be quite costly because it's hard to recruit people, it's hard to retain people and usually highly trained individuals with credentials they do cost more."

Judge Marshall indicated that she wants a clearer picture of who the receiver would be and what their duties would be as well as how much imposition of a receiver may cost the Government of Guam.  Sommerfleck suggested to the court that the government could pay for the receiver by using bond funds that will become available to the government once the USDA provides a loan and grant to GovGuam for the Ordot consent decree. 

Even if that money is available, government officials say a receivership will be too costly.  "Of course," said Dr. Leitheiser, "the department as a whole would not like to see us go into receiver. We think we have made great strides under the leadership of Dr. [David] Shimizu and with the help of the court and the court monitors we think we've been progressing quite well towards it. We know we still have a ways to go."

There was discussion court's monitors, Attorney James Casey and Dr. James Kiffer, may be qualified to assume receivership, but the judge has asked both parties to submit a list of possible receivers by January 4. Until then, she's requesting business continue as usual. And that includes the department's ongoing efforts towards compliance.

Judge Marshall also issued a decision granting at least $80,000 in attorney's fees that were requested by the plaintiffs.  

Mental Health Director Shimizu meanwhile faces being held in contempt of court as the judge today issued an order to show cause against the director.  Shimizu must explain why he has not hired a full-time quality assurance officer and why the records custodian at the Department of Mental Health who is interested and qualified who not offered the position.  The court ordered Shimizu to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with the court's order by December 15.

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