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Islanders elated at dismissal of lawsuit

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - The JFK High School community is elated tonight with a decision handed down by Superior Court Judge Arthur Barcinas, who dismissed the Guam Community Improvement Foundation's lawsuit against the Office of the Public Auditor.  But while the organization is reviewing the decision to determine its next move, JFK stakeholders are hopeful the litigation is over and the construction of a new JFK will finally proceed. 

"I was jumping up and down and screaming," said student Jordan Tingson.  "We are one step closer to going home, new facilities, a place we can call home and can install our islander colors there and install that we just can't have anywhere else." 

Excitement filled the halls of the interim JFK campus this afternoon as news quickly spread about an order handed down in a civil suit that's delayed the construction of a new campus.  Teacher Angelo Andres said, "Immediate reaction?  Filled with joy. We've been working on this issue since June last year and haven't really stopped. I've been with this issue for a while now of course.  It was really great news because we thought it was the last stop for getting our school built."

In the decision and order, Judge Barcinas denied the GCIF's request for a writ of mandate as he found that the organization has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies in seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Public Auditor.  Additionally, the court found that the Public Auditor does not have a duty to unseal the bid proposals that were submitted for the construction of the new campus.

GCIF was one of several companies that responded to a request for proposal for the finance, design, and construction of the new JFK High School. The organization last year lodged a protest with Public Works after International Bridge Corporation was selected as the most qualified offeror and negotiations had begun with the government. That protest eventually made its way to the Public Auditor, who sealed all of the proposals submitted in response to the RFP after finding that IBC's bid was made in good faith.

Judge Barcinas found that GCIF didn't exhaust its administrative remedies, referring to the Government Claims Act.  He noted in the decision that the company must follow the procurement law that spells out how appeals of bids must be handled.  Barcinas also wrote that because there is no evidence that a contract was awarded, the court found that the OPA actually has a duty to keep the proposals under seal, something the GCIF had hoped he would order be made public.

JFK athletic director Jack Hattig III said, "I was surprised, I'm happy and surprised that we get a ruling this quickly and also the event it might go to the Supreme Court; that doesn't please me at all. Whenever we go to the judicial system, it is such a long process and we've been waiting so long."

But it's not clear if the excitement for the JFK community will be shortlived, as the organization is still reviewing the decision and their attorney, Randy Cunliffe, has not said if the GCIF will appeal the decision to the Guam Supreme Court.  For now, the Islanders are hoping for the best.

Said Andres, "[I'm] really questioning the reason why if the GCIF is going to pursue it to the Supreme Court, what their whole intent is. By doing that it keeps us from going back to our main campus."

Attorney Cunliffe confirmed that his client does intend to file an appeal of Judge Barcinas' decision. A notice of appeal must be filed with the Guam Supreme Court within 30 days, meaning - much to the dismay of JFK stakeholders - the Islanders will have to wait even longer for a permanent campus.

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