You Paid for It, Guam: GBB's billing - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

You Paid for It, Guam: GBB's billing

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Federal receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton has been on board for more than three years assisting the Government of Guam with complying with a consent decree to close the Ordot Dump and open a new landfill that complies with federal mandates. After decades of violating federal regulations and allowing environmental concerns to drag on for years, the District Court made the appointment of a receiver to force the government into compliance. 

Aside from the $81 million that's been spent to construct the first two cells of the new landfill at Dandan and the infrastructure for future cells, the receiver has been paid upwards of $7.8 million for their work.  It's an amount GBB contends is completely justified. 

Since they were appointed by Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood in March 2008, GBB and its representatives have been paid close to $8 million for their work. With the exception of March and April 2008 billings, the receiver has billed in excess of $200,000 in labor expenses and fees consistently every month for the last three and half years.

It's a figure that GBB Special Principal Associate David Manning maintains is completely justified.

"The total cost to Guam of the receivership has been a savings really.  There hasn't been a cost.  Because we reduced the cost of the solid waste operations even including our additional costs to below where it was when we arrived," he explained.

When the receiver began they were charging hourly rates of between $250 an hour for the company's top representatives and $60 an hour for an administrative secretary and $45 an hour for clerical support. The start of the receivership came at a time when the solid waste management division was in complete disarray, Ordot residents were beyond frustrated over the consistent fires that broke out at the dump due to a lack of daily cover and GovGuam was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent equipment while residents were complaining about missed trash pickups.

While things have certainly improved and the gates to the Ordot Dump will finally be locked at the end of this month, as ordered by Judge Tydingco Gatewood,

The receiver has now essentially gotten raises. Recent billings show the hourly rates have increased from $250 an hour to $260 for executives and $60 and hour to $62.40 for administrative secretaries. Said Manning, "The original agreement with the court allowed for an increase in those rates annually based on inflation. Now working with the court, we waived that for two out of the three years, but the court did allow an increase in those rates for one year."

A review of the receiver's billings also shows that Guam taxpayers are footing the bill for the company's representatives to fly business class every time they come to Guam. According to the receipts filed with the court, those tickets cost between $4,600 and more than $5,800 every trip to the territory.

"Because that what federal rules allow for people that are traveling that far," Manning continued. "After I've been out there several times, I may accumulate enough miles for one free ticket for that distance. I don't get the benefit of that free ticket basically it covers the cost of my next trip out."

Many of the invoices show that the receiver has charged the people of Guam considerable amounts of money for "reading e-mails from vendors, reviewing documents during travel to Guam, and of course having meetings to discuss the new landfill." But in the minutia of the details, an administrative secretary, who makes $60 an hour, billed residents to make time conversion cards and Guam paid another $120 for her to pick-up boarding passes for receiver representatives to travel to the island.

Then there's the many breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings that we paid for - not just for the meals themselves but also labor costs for the actual meetings: $105 for dinner at Tumon Bay Lobster Grill, $103 at Downtown Kieu's for three receiver representatives meals, $110 for a meal in Hawaii with Wagdy Guirgus, GMP and GRRP, a steak dinner for one person at more than $63 and lodging at the Royal Hawaiian at $266 a night.

From the coffee they drink to the meals they eat, taxi rides, the monthly rent for a condo at the Hagatna Beach Condominiums, cell phone and utility bills, rental cars and even groceries - you paid for it.

When told that KUAM News found receipts for groceries, laundry detergent, toothpaste, mouth wash and shaving cream, and further asked if such expenses were considered normal, Manning said, "Yeah, it is in the sense that if you were staying in a hotel all that stuff for the most part would be provided to you. It's allowable under the per diem as a living cost. People who are living in Guam for the most part, that relates to people who are there almost all the time - what the arrangement is we have to come in under that per diem."

Under the agreement with the court, the receiver uses the federal contractors on Guam per diem rate as a ceiling for their daily expenses. "And whatever the number is below that in terms of actual cost is what we're actually reimbursed not the per diem it can never go above the per diem," he added.

Despite what some may believe are questionable costs and billings, it is worth to note that all of the invoices are reviewed and approved by Judge Tydingco Gatewood.  Although the people of Guam have paid millions for the receivership, GBB contends they've substantially saved the Government of Guam money to the tune of more than $17.7 million to effectively operate the Solid Waste Management Division, deliver services to customers and achieve compliance with the consent decree.

GBB is scheduled to present its quarterly status report to the court on August 31, the same day the court intends to see the gates of the Ordot Dump chained up as the new Layon landfill begins accepting trash.

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