Aguon’s bill calls for CLTC moratorium - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Aguon’s bill calls for CLTC moratorium

Posted: May 14, 2018 4:32 PM Updated:

A temporary halt on the awarding of Chamorro Land Trust leases. Governor Eddie Calvo making that recommendation to commissioners, as they investigate to find out what corrective action to take next. The governor's call comes as one senator has introduced a measure that would do that among other things to address the land scandal.

Hot on the heels of the AG’s legal opinion upending the Chamorro Land Trust’s awarding of leases in the controversial Barrigada Heights area – Senator Frank Aguon is now on deck with legislation he says will help restore the public’s faith in the CLTC.

Aguon’s Bill 284 calls for

  • The CLTC to stop issuing leases until formal rules and regulations can be authored and approved. This moratorium on leases will only be for the time it takes to formulate CLTC rules.
  • The measure also calls for CLTC Administrator Michael Borja to be replaced by a “temporary receiver” appointed by the Governor. The “temporary receiver” would be chosen from a pool of retired judges from Guam or the CNMI. The “temporary receiver” would run the CLTC until rules and regs are implemented.
  • The bill also calls for the CLTC rules and regs to include provisions dealing with ethics, standards of conduct, disclosure and also includes “whistleblower” protections for employees who report improprieties dealing the awarding of CLTC leases.
  • The bill calls for Director Borja’s salary to be cut by 25% while rules and regulations are being drafter and approved – because theoretically Borja will not be performing the duties of CLTC administrator while rules and regs are being adopted.

“What process is being applied and why is it that applicants are not being entertained sequentially – by the date and time they submitted their application?” Aguon said.

Aguon also said a further review of the CLTC is warranted – and should be conducted by way of oversight hearing or by the “temporary receiver” his bill would create. And if we’re looking for a happy ending to the CLTC scandal – Aguon says we should back to the beginning.

 “It would be responsibility of the temporary receiver to go back to square one – December 2, 1995,” Aguon said.

As reported on KUAM News, leases to Land Management employees and their relatives account for over 25 of the 102 leases awarded at the CLTC’s prime Barrigada Heights property. A number of leases awarded at Barrigada Heights involved allowing applicants to switch places in line, according to CLTC documents.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson on Friday issued a legal opinion stating any leases that involved the transfer of a lease or application from one living person to another – or leases awarded that involved switching places in line were null and void.

The opinion also said that all leases should have been approved the CLTC board – and she declared leases that weren’t “voidable, but not void”.

The AG’s investigation into the CLTC is still ongoing – and presumably the results of that review would determine if there was any criminal wrongdoing involved with the awarding of leases in Barrigada Heights.

Land Committee chair Senator Tom Ada said Aguon’s bill could “kill the Chamorro Land Trust”. Ada adding a moratorium on all CLTC leases would be punishing the many for the CLTC sins of the few.

“You know, I don’t think that’s right,” Ada said.

Ada saying it took 20 years to finish rules and regulations dealing with CLTC commercial leases – and there’s no telling how long it would takes rules and regs for residential CLTC lands to be implemented.

Ada saying he will also introduce legislation – a bill that will allow CLTC lands to be passed on while the original lessee is still living – something that directly conflicts with the AG’s legal opinion.

While Ada and Aguon may not see eye to eye on how broke the CLTC system is, Ada does agree that something needs to be done – specifically with updating the law that created the Chamorro Land Trust.

“It is clear in reviewing that, that we really should sit down and look at it again – 23 years later,” Senator Ada said.

Governor’s special assistant Vince Leon Guerrero – detailed to Land Management to assist with the CLTC controversy – is waiting for a sit-down with CLTC board chair Pika Fejeran and DLM Director Borja.

While Leon Guerrero would not address the specifics of Aguon’s bill, he did say he was concerned about legislation that takes away power and authority from the CLTC – even if the intent of Aguon’s bill is to address the CLTC’s abuse of that power and authority.

 “They need a hand up,” Leon Guerrero said. “They need legislation that assists them.”

Leon Guerrero said that although problems are plaguing the CLTC, legislation should respect that there are mechanisms in place to rectify issues with the CLTC’s procedures.

“If it’s not aligned with statute, let’s reset things,” Leon Guerrero said. “If there’s wrongdoing – and criminal wrongdoing - we got the AG looking at it.

The issue now puts the awarding of other CLTC leases into question. The administration confirms the CTLC has awarded about 3,000 leases - 738 of them just in the last eight years.

In a release late this afternoon, Governor Calvo called for a temporary halt to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission’s awarding of leases while the Commission continues its review.

 “On Friday, the Attorney General opined that there are administrative practices exercised over the last 25 years that require review,” Governor Calvo stated in a letter to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.  “As the Commission addresses this issue, it would be prudent to place a hold on any awards while you and your fellow Commissioners review the processes by which leases have been executed and determine a corrective course of action.”

 Governor Calvo, in the letter to the CLTC, recommended that Commissioners immediately establish a moratorium. Typically, the Governor signs the leases after they are approved by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

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