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Supreme Court denies governor's objection

by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Just as oral arguments are set to begin on Wednesday with the Democrats' lawsuit against the Governor's Office over the Tax Refund Efficient Payment Trust Fund, the Supreme Court of Guam had issued an order Monday denying the governor's objection to the attorney general's amicus curiae brief and its request to disqualify the AG g from participating in oral arguments. The governor's motion to reconsider and to strike the petitioner's brief was also denied.

According to court documents, the governor asserts his confusion about the role the Office of the Attorney General in this matter results in part from the fact that a senator involved in the matter is also the oag's legislative oversight chairman. He further claims the OAG never responded to questions about representation and never disagreed with the governor's analysis of the underlying issue regarding the refund reserve fund and the trust fund. Because of this, the governor argues the OAG is disqualified by virtue of a conflict of interest, and should not be permitted to participate in oral arguments.

The court denied the governor's request saying the OAG is not a party to this proceeding but is acting as amicus curiae not representing either the governor or the legislature and that it's amicus brief focuses solely on questions of law. The three justices in the matter - F. Philip Carbullido, Katherine Maraman and Chief Justice Robert Torres however do note their concerns about the alleged actions of the OAG including its repeated failure to respond to the governor's inquiries regarding the OAG's position on the issues raised.

It was earlier this month when the governor's chief policy advisor Arthur Clark raised concern over the AG's amicus brief saying it was not proper as a result of ethical concerns. He further raised issue that Assistant AG Shannon Taitano, who filed the brief on behalf of the AG, was the former legal counsel to former governor Felix Camacho. He added whatever accusations are being tossed at Governor Calvo through this lawsuit are also being made against former governor Camacho.

Appropriations chair Senator Ben Pangelinan, who authored the resolution seeking the declaratory relief, says he's glad the supreme court saw through the governor's attempts and instead allowed the AG to represent the people adding "With all these legal stunts by the governor to deter the A.G.'s participation, the Legislature stands firm in its request for a Declaratory Judgment from the Supreme Court that the governor is not allowed to make unlawful withdrawals from the Refund Trust Fund as he did back in November and December 2013 when he withdrew over $12 million."

The governor's director of communications Troy Torres meanwhile responded to Pangelinan's release saying they would not engage in a back-and-forth on tax refunds and instead thanks Senator Pangelinan for the concerns. "We assure him, we are on top of things and, despite constant obstacles he puts in our way to pay refunds, we continue to pay the people their money. We hope his lawsuit does not succeed, because it will cause tax refunds to be paid later. Nobody wants that to happen."

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