by Mindy Aguon
Guam - There is a call for accountability and transparency from the federal receiver. Concerns haven't just been raised about how much money taxpayer money is being spent on the receiver and its expenses, but also about their track record elsewhere.
Governor Eddie Calvo acknowledges that for decades the Government of Guam's handling of solid waste on the island was unacceptable. The island's chief executive told KUAM News, "We want to congratulate the receiver in making improvements. We have a responsibility to the people and the environment." The Calvo Administration, which inherited the federal receiver, however understands that it has a fiduciary responsibility on how the people of Guam's money is spent. "This is not mudslinging - this is all about openness and transparency. Our administration has been open and transparent," he added.
But the governor isn't so convinced that the receiver has been transparent as Gershman, Brickner & Bratton representative David Manning and other company officials have refused to provide financial reports. Both the Administration and the Guam Solid Waste Authority have been trying to get a clear cut answer on how much more money will be necessary to close the books on the consent decree. The federal receiver has indicated that some of the consent decree projects are more than $63 million over budget and that the government will have to pay at least $14 million for post-closure environmental monitoring of the Ordot Dump - all costs that were not figured into the original $202 million bond financing that was expected to be enough to cover consent decree projects.
Calvo continued, "But one thing we don't want to do is when the hand off is given to GovGuam that we are left with something that will have terrible consequences for ratepayers and consumers in the years ahead."
On Tuesday his Administration took issue with just how much taxpayers have had to pay for the receiver with millions being paid to upper management in wages, more than half a million in first-class travel and various expenses. "Whether it's steak and lobster or first class tickets or it's a beautiful hotel suite in Waikiki, I think it's important at the very least we open this up to the white hot light of public scrutiny," he said.
And that's not including the multimillion dollar access road mistake where the receiver built an access road to Dandan from Inarajan all designed around a parcel thought to be private property but was later determined to belong to the government. "Who's going to eat that mistake? This gentleman has come here and moved back to Tennessee, but in the meantime Tan Maria and Tun Jose and the rest of the island is going to pay for this mistake," the governor speculated.
And then there's the issue of some questionable track records of some of the receiver's representatives. An Web search revealed that Chace Anderson is named in several news articles alleging improper conduct while employed as the Nashville Metro Public Works solid waste director that owned and operated a waste-to-energy facility. Anderson had been informed about a fire hazard with waste piling up in the facility. A week later, there was a massive blaze at the plant that resulted in its closure for more than a week. Further investigation revealed that Anderson had allowed overfilling of the facility's tip floor.
E-mail messages exchanged between Anderson and Manning - who was also the Metro finance director and a member of the solid waste board - revealed that Anderson was forcing a company to dump its garbage at the facility to collect dumping fees. Following the fire in 2002, there were several lawsuits filed against Metro solid waste for breach of contract. According to the Nashville City Paper, the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld the judgment finding that Metro wrongfully attempted to modify the payment and billing procedures and reduce services agreed upon by the parties. In 2005, Anderson resigned as the solid waste director.
While the governor says he's read some accounts of the players behind the receivership and some claims of misconduct, he says the government just wants more transparency on what's being paid on the dime of the people.
Also while he was employed at the Solid Waste Division, Anderson and Metro were named in a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit filed by a 63-year-old female account clerk. The woman claimed she was discriminated against because of her age and said that Anderson had given her a late unfavorable evaluation and transferred her to an isolated location where garbage trucks were weighed and had her clean out the office fridge on a weekly basis.
Under a negotiated settlement, the claims against Anderson were thrown out and the age discrimination claim against metro were upheld and the employee was awarded nearly $200,000 in damages.