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GOP raises concern over legal counsel

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - After passing a resolution earlier this month, Democrat senators are moving forward in seeking a declaratory judgment in the Supreme Court over how funds in the tax refund account can be spent. While the Governor's Office welcomes the lawsuit, the Republican minority has come forward, raising its own set of concerns.

It's a waste of taxpayers money - that's one of several concerns Minority Leader Tony Ada has over Senator Ben Pangelinan and the filing of a declaratory judgment in the supreme court on behalf of the 32nd Guam Legislature. "We're taken back on the matter that Senator Pangelinan has said that on behalf of the Guam Legislature, and if you recall, we did take our names off the resolution all six Republicans because of the fact that we didn't support that resolution," he shared.

Last Friday the Law Offices of John Terlaje filed the court action seeking the Supreme Court determine whether Guam law allows the use of funds deposited into the Income Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund for other purposes other than for tax refunds. "Tax refunds are being paid even to this date Rev & Tax are waiting for people to keep filing so that we can keep paying off tax refunds, so its really a moot issue and we should move on to bigger and better things," he said.

Senator Pangelinan says discovered alleged unlawful withdrawals by the governor from the fund for non-tax-refund related purposes to include operations totaling about $50 million. Pangelinan has repeatedly refused KUAM's calls for comment. 

As for the Republicans, the concern arose from Resolution 312's beginning as it was introduced less than 24-hours before session was called and placed on the session agenda without a public hearing. For Ada, he also questions why the majority is not using its legal counsel, Attorney Therese Terlaje and instead opting to use her brother's law firm, with Senator Ada saying, "The perception out there of any bias or conflict of interest because of the fact that the majority legal counsel and the first that was hired outside are related, should have brought red flags to his attention too but as to why he went down that road we didn't know."

Calls were made to both Attorney Therese Terlaje And John Terlaje's offices - none of which have yet to respond. We have learned while both have same offices, both attorneys have separate law firms. We should note Attorney Therese Terlaje is on a $120,000 contract with the Legislature, an issue recently raised with debate over the Hay raises.

"People out there would be looking at the legislature legal counsel does make more than the attorney general so why couldn't they handle it in-house and have the legal counsel represent the senator Pangelinan and the democrat majority?," said Senator Ada.

In a release, Senator Pangelinan did note that he had sent three separate letters to the AG requesting he take action on the matter.  As for the Governor's Office, it was upon the resolution's passage when Governor Eddie Calvo responded by saying Pangelinan had a different concept of reality and it stands firm that the administration is following the law. Deputy press secretary Phil Leon Guerrero says its important that the people look at the records of our leaders when it comes to rhetoric over tax refunds.

"We welcome this legal action because if you look at the law and the requirements of the law and you look at the actions of the administration of what we've done we've met the requirements of the law, we exceeded the requirements for depositing into this account and we're paying tax refunds quicker than what this court has ordered and quicker than any senator mandated by law," he said.

A status hearing on the matter meanwhile will take place this Wednesday on February 26 at 9:30 in the morning in Judge Alberto Lamorena's courtroom. 

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