by Mindy Aguon
Guam - There are concerns not just about the lack of transparency from the federal receiver but now about their motives and whether the safety of island residents has been put on the backburner for the sake of economics.
"We're not going to go back to the way things used to be done and not pay attention to what Mr. [David] Manning and GBB is doing on Guam," said Arthur Clark, chief policy advisor for the Calvo Administration. He says the administration has been reviewing the billing and work of Gershman, Bricker & Bratton and they haven't been pleased with what they've found. From first-class travel and steak-and-lobster dinners to hotel suites in Hawaii, a beachfront condo, and million-dollar a year salaries, Clark says it's apparent there's been a lack of scrutiny.
He continued, "Whether it's the Attorney General's Office, whether it's the court, I don't think people have been scrutinizing and now that the Governor's Office starts looking at the costs and starts attending the board meetings, all of a sudden (the receiver says) there's a conspiracy. Well, there's no conspiracy here. There's tens, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to suggest that the governor shouldn't be concerned about how it is being spent is ridiculous."
But officials aren't just concerned with what's being spent on the receiver, but also the significant changes in the estimations for consent decree projects and the Layon Landfill. "GBB got it wrong and they're off by a magnitude of 100% and so that's kind of alarming in and of itself that you could be so far off in their estimates and of course the consequences is the Government of Guam and the people of Guam will have to the pay the difference," he said.
In fact, according to the receiver's reports filed with the District Court, up until 2012, receiver representative Manning told the judge and the parties that there the Layon Landfill project was actually underbudget, leaving a $38 million windfall - but a year later the receiver reported for the first time that the government would be tens of millions of dollars short to close the Ordot Dump and fund additional projects. Manning has claimed that the projects like the Dero Road improvements and transfer station upgrades were added by the government. But Clark clears the record.
"Rather than being a request of DPW," he stated, "it was actually the recommendation of Windsler and Kelly and GBB, so it's not that DPW asked for it and Mr. Manning agreed to it, it was actually the opposite."
Manning told the government that the project could simply be eliminated if the government chose to do so. "So in a nutshell, he says the government cannot sacrifice public safety for economic reasons," Clark said. "The Governor's Office is very alarmed by this and we think the public should be too. We want to make sure all laws relative to protecting the public are followed and not sacrificed."
But it wouldn't be the first time that Manning and current solid waste manager Chase Anderson have been accused of putting money before public safety. Manning was the solid waste director for the Nashville metro waste-to-energy facility. Anderson had been advised of the fire hazard of significant amounts of trash being left on the facility floor. A week later there was a massive blaze at the plant.
Nashville news outlets reported that further investigation revealed that Anderson and Manning, in e-mail messages, knew of the trash pileup and Anderson was forcing a company to dump its garbage at the facility to collect dumping fees. The Nashville City Paper reported that the plant fire was caused by negligence and Anderson resigned after the incident and the public outcry that followed.
Said Clark, "It looks like public safety standards were not followed this article says because there was a profit motive. Well, that causes me some concern."
And Adelup vows to continue their scrutiny of the federal receiver as the costs keep piling up for Guam. Clark says they want answers and are hoping the court will require them from the receiver. "We want to know how does he go from a $40 million estimate to $80 million requirement. I'd like him to answer what changed as far as the necessary safety requirements for these additional projects. Why are they apparently not necessary?," he said.