Multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit filed against GovGuam - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit filed against GovGuam

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - The Calvo Administration could face a major bump in GovGuam's road to financial recovery, as a multimillion dollar class action law suit has been filed with the Superior Court of Guam dealing with private property taken for public easements and utilities.

"This law has never been rescinded and it shouldn't be rescinded because the government has wronged these real property owners. So we, on behalf of the estate of Rita Aquino Salas and there may be some others added as named plaintiffs, are suing the government," asserted Attorney Curtis Van De Veld In reference to Public Law 22-73.

The bill was originally vetoed by then-governor Joseph Ada but overridden by the 22nd Guam Legislature.

The public law required the Governor of Guam within 120 days of its passage to develop a list of landowners whose lands had been taken or used for public access and public utilities in Guam without being compensated.

It further mandated that rev and tax refrain to remove those properties from real estate tax rolls and refrain from collecting real property taxes on public utilities and access easements.

According to Van De Veld the law was a result of report out of the Department of the Interior back in 1992. In the audit, DOI addressed that GovGuam must remedy uncompensated land takings.

He said, "The Office of the Inspector General determined that the Government of Guam had taken people's property for roadways and other easements and had not compensated them for that money that they should be paid when their property is taken by the government and also that they continued to tax people on the real property for the segments of the real property that were taken."

But what's the damage? According to Van De Veld, in excess $73 million is owed to such property owners.

The class action lawsuit Van De Veld filed today seeks to have the court issue a writ of mandamus to the Government of Guam to compel GovGuam to perform what it's obligated to do.

"In that public law it requires that the Government of Guam, the Executive Branch will determine which people they taxed improperly and how much they improperly taxed them for the real property and will also determine all persons whose property has been taken and used by the public and place a value on it which they believed should be restored to ," he stated.

When Ada vetoed the bill in 1994 he wrote, "Although this measure proposes to compensate landowners whose lands were taken and others who agreed to let the government take or use their land, it is in fact nothing more than a raid on the treasury and a recipe for bankruptcy for the Government of Guam, the Public Utility Agency of Guam, the Guam Power Authority, the Guam Telephone Authority and the Territorial Highway Fund."

The Governor's Office had not yet seen the lawsuit and declined to comment at this time.

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