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GHURA chief's case could be dismissed

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Working sessions or secret board meetings? On Monday, one of seven defendants charged with violating the Open Government Law enters a deferred plea. If all goes well, GHURA Executive Director Michael Duenas will have his case dismissed and expunged. His testimony could prove invaluable to the government's case.

Judge Anita Sukola asked Duenas, "How do you plea at this time to the forty-sixth charge of conspiracy as a misdemeanor, a violation of 9GCA1330?" He replied, "Guilty, Your Honor." She asked, "Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?", with Duenas responding, "Yes, Your Honor."  Duenas entered a deferred plea with the government for a single charge of conspiracy as a misdemeanor.

Last year, Duenas and GHURA's David Sablan, Cecile Suda, John Ilao, Rosie Blas, Roland Selvidge, and Deanne Torre were charged with various misdemeanor charges including conspiracy, official misconduct, and violating the Open Government Law.

Court documents state admissions from some board members to investigators revealed commissioners met for "working sessions" to determine how they'd vote during meetings, including how they'd facilitate the award of millions in tax credits under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

While his co-defendants have filed motions to sever their cases or have their charges dismissed, Chief Prosecutor Joseph McDonald commends Duenas for his bravery, saying, "He's taken a very brave step. 0055 and decided that he would like to cooperate and provide assistance to the government. And i think that that's important and it shows quite a bit to his character."

He added, "If everything goes as planned, then mr. Duenas has agreed to testify and testify truthfully and provide cooperation. If everything goes as planned, the charges will be dismissed."

The case, McDonald hopes, will set the example - there's zero tolerance for corruption in GovGuam, adding, "It's important to have transparency in the running of the boards. You can see that even though it is a misdemeanor, what we're really interested in is upholding the policy of the law which is to have transparency, so the people can see how they're being governed. And they don't yield to the decision makers and actually understand what is public business in front of the public."

No word yet if Duenas' position at GHURA will be affected by this case. "I'm not able to comment on that. I believe that it's an appointed position, so it'll be up to the governor. I will say that Mr. Duenas is a valued public servant and he's been with the government for a very long time," he said.

Sablan, Suda, Ilao, Blas, Selvidge, and Torre, meanwhile, are set to appear in court next month.

Their motions to sever and dismiss remain under advisement.

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