Governor's Office submits brief over declaratory judgment - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Governor's Office submits brief over declaratory judgment

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Friday marked the deadline for the third set of briefs in the Democrats lawsuit against the Governor's Office over the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund. And the Governor's Office maintains the lawsuit is not only a waste of time, but that the accusations presented legally by the Democrats are wrong.

While the Democrats in the Guam Legislature have asked the Supreme Court to determine whether money in the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund can be used for other purposes other than tax refunds, the governor's office questions whether or not the matter was even properly brought before the courts.

"The legislature brought the declaratory action which the Guam statute allows in very limited circumstances and we don't think it applies in this particular instance," said chief policy advisor Arthur Clark. These are just one of the arguments Clark's, along with governor's legal counsel Sandra Miller, present in their brief filed today. The lawsuit was authorized with the passage of Resolution 312 which was passed during a Saturday session without a public hearing.

"In this particular case as much as the legislature tries to mask the real issue here and pretend that they're asking about their duties, they're really not and they're challenging the governor's exercise of his duties which and that's the first thing we put to the court as it's not germane to the statute on declaratory action," he said.

Secondly, Clark says they believe the organic act gives the governor the authority over the management of taxes, tax refunds and tax laws. The third point outlined in the governor's argument is that the administration takes issue to both how the facts were presented in the legislature's brief as he believes they were inaccurate. "Again they don't even follow the statute, they've rewritten the statute in order to make their arguments and then factually it's just wrong also," Clark said.

In the legislature's opening brief, Attorney John Terlaje says despite a clear mandate under the law, the governor has violated Guam law and has expended the funds from the trust to make unauthorized payments on other General Fund and agency-specific obligations. "The governor has never expended the money contrary to law," said Clark.

Assistant Attorney General Shannon Taitano meanwhile filed the amicus brief on behalf of the AG last week. And while the Governor's Office did not address it in their brief, Clark says he doesn't believe it was proper for them to do so as the attorney general's office is the counsel for the Governor's Office. "The Attorney General's Office did consult the Governor's Office on this issue over a year ago and ethical rules essentially prohibit them from entering an appearance in this matter and in our opinion just another ethical concern raised by the Attorney General's Office," he said.

He further raises concern that Taitano was the former legal counsel for former governor Felix Camacho. He says whatever accusations are being tossed at Governor Calvo through this lawsuit are also being tossed to Camacho. Clarks adds repeated calls and emails were made to discuss the AG's ethical responsibility, but they were never returned.

Clark meanwhile questions the purpose of the lawsuit as tax refunds are being paid on time. He says Governor Calvo isn't just the first governor to put more money into the tax trust fund since it was created but the first to fully fund the fund consistent with the law. "And yet, he's the only one being sued on this issue. Is this lawsuit a waste of time? Absolutely, there's no question about it," he said.

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