Dededo mayor sued by attorney over FOIA request - News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Dededo mayor sued by attorney over FOIA request

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Dededo mayor Melissa Savares is being sued by prominent local attorney David Lujan. The lawsuit seeks to force the mayor to pay thousands of dollars that could mean less money for the children and sick in the northern village.

Mayor Savares oversees a village with an estimated 45,000 residents.  On top of the nearly 100 requests she and her staff of three receive on a daily basis, Savares is now fighting a legal battle for submitting documents late. On July 23 Attorney Lujan filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Savares. The request sought a list of all licenses the Dededo Mayor's Office issued in the last five years, along with receipts derived from such licenses as well as copies of annual written reports, census data, a list of all individuals and businesses that have been cited, an accounting of all funds, minutes of every meeting of the Municipal Planning Council in the last five years, as well as charged imposed, collected and expended relating to the Dededo Gymnasium Revolving Fund, among many others.

Savares declined an on-camera interview with KUAM News, but confirms her staff needed additional time to compile the documents due to the sheer volume of what was requested as well.  Savares says her office photocopier was down at the time and her staff was busy trying to comply with the FOIA request while still taking care of residents' requests. On August 6, the mayor advised the Lujan firm that she had limited resources to compile records covering five years but copies were being made.  A day later the parties agreed that the documents could be submitted by August 17.  Savares says the records weren't ready by that deadline and she then advised the Attorney General's Office when they were compiled. 

On September 7, Lujan filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of Guam seeking a court order to compel Savares to produce the public records and explain why she had failed to do so.  Lujan also wanted the court to impose the statutory $1,000 fine against Savares and have her pay the costs and reasonable attorney's fees. Those costs apparently total more than $4,400. 

During a court hearing this week, Savares was advised that Lujan and his law firm would waive the fine since she did eventually comply but told her she would have to foot the bill.  Attorney Lujan is billing Savares $350 an hour for the time he conducted preliminary research regarding a writ of mandamus, as well as research and meeting with another attorney and an office worker on the case.  The invoice also included $200 an hour for the work Attorney Delia Lujan Wolf performed on the case and another $100 an hour for Jim Brooks' drafting of the petition. 

According to the invoice, Lujan billed in excess of $1,000 just for reviewing the very documents he requested from Savares.

The Dededo mayor expressed frustration with the lawsuit, saying she did comply and lacked the adequate resources to compile the volumes of documents in just a few weeks. Savares says she intends to fight having to pay the invoice, saying the money from the Dededo Flea Market goes to pay for the entrance fees of kids sports programs and to help fund off-island medical travel for residents.

The mayor will be calling an emergency meeting of the Dededo Municipal Planning Council possibly next week to discuss the lawsuit and the situation regarding Lujan's demand for payment.

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