Hundreds of CLTC leases in jeopardy - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Hundreds of CLTC leases in jeopardy

Posted: May 16, 2018 2:46 PM Updated:

Hundreds of Chamorro Land Trust leases could be in jeopardy of being declared “null and void” - according to documents obtained from the Department of Land Management.

Documents prepared for the Chamorro Land Trust Commission board were obtained by KUAM News, and these documents show nearly 700 names and hundreds of leases signed in which “application rights” or CLTC leases were transferred – many of these instances involving original applicants who are still living.

AG Elizabeth Barrett Anderson’s legal opinion stated the Chamorro Land Trust Act does not authorize or “allow an applicant during his lifetime to transfer or switch places with another applicant” – and according to the AG’s opinion, any leases that involve this are “null and void”.

The AG’s opinion further states “a lease in violation of this prohibition is null and void and not subject to the Commission’s power to correct or remedy”.

Hundreds of “application rights” were transferred while the original applicant was still living – and according to CLTC documents, this practice was allowed by the CLTC as far back as 1997.

CLTC documents show that leases involving the taking over of “application rights” were signed for CLTC properties all over the island.

CLTC documents also show 30 applicants were allowed to “switch date and time” with other applicants – something CLTC legal counsel and Assistant AG Nicholas Tofts said was an “administrative practice” - the AG opined these leases were “null and void”.

CLTC leases not authorized by the CLTC board are voidable, according to the AG’s opinion. It is not clear how many CLTC leases would fall into this category, and the opinion indicated lessees could petition the board to ratify leases previously not approved by them.

Since the passage of the law that created the Chamorro Land Trust, it is clear that the CLTC has abandoned the “first come, first serve” process that was supposed to dictate how Chamorro homelands were doled out.

“Someone who received a number of 308 has yet to be contacted over the course of the last 23 years by Chamorro Land Trust personnel,” Senator Frank Aguon said, highlighting one instance of “first come, first serve” not being adhered to.

There is also no way of telling what motivation was provided for people to transfer “app rights” or switch dates and times with another applicant. Were money, favors or other enticements offered? There’s no way to tell.

“I want to believe that for the most part, things were done correctly and properly - and that you may have had maybe a handful - that were questionable,” land committee chair Senator Tom Ada said.

Although Ada said the CLTC should proceed cautiously with granting leases, Ada disagrees with the Governor and Senator Aguon’s call for a “moratorium” on the issuing of CLTC leases.

“We end up penalizing everybody by calling a moratorium and no more issuance of leases until everything gets resolved to everybody’s satisfaction,” Ada said.

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