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CLTC takes steps toward accountability

Posted: May 18, 2018 2:13 PM Updated:

Chamorro Land Trust board chairwoman Pika Fejeran not having it – coming down hard in the wake of the CLTC Barrigada Heights scandal at yesterday’s CLTC board meeting.

Fejeran, when asked if the board still has full confidence in CLTC administrator Michael Borja, said the recent controversies surrounding the CLTC may be overshadowing Borja’s accomplishments.

“I think that’s a question we’re asking ourselves now,” Fejeran said.

Fejeran calling for an audit of all leases issued by the CLTC – so they can decide which leases should be ratified and which leases should be voided.

Fejeran also calling for the creation of a bypass list to find out how many CLTC applicants have been skipped over. The CLTC would then presumably go back to the drawing board and give out leases on a first come, first serve basis.

86-year-old CLTC applicant Angelo Flores is number 1,295 on the list and he applied in 1995. He spoke before the board to tell the story of how he’s been brushed off by the CLTC staff – while applicants were allowed to switch places in line to avoid waiting and others were fast-tracked in apparent hook-ups.

“Mr. Flores, we’ll call you as soon as your name comes up,” Flores said in an emotional testimony. “Well, I’ve never been called.”

CLTC documents show the “first come, first serve” process has apparently been abandoned – applicants from as recently as 2014 have been granted leases in Barrigada Heights.

The AG’s legal opinion on “switching” places stated leases obtained by switching place in line were “null and void” addressed board by chair Fejeran  - it was revealed Land Management deputy director signed off on 17 “switches” – calling for the board to unanimously bar deputy director David Camacho from acting on any matters relating to the CLTC.

“Why would Mr. Camacho sign it? Here are these issues that’s going on, and I feel we should do something harsh to establish our credibility in this commission, because we’ve lost it,” Vice Chair Jose Cruz said.

Borja also took some heat for facilitating the clearing of an access road in Barrigada Heights – Fejeran saying other CLTC properties could’ve benefitted from the service as well, and she blasted Borja for not getting proper permits and not informing his superiors.

“You dropped the ball, Mike,” Fejeran said.

Borja’s sister Catherine Blaz Borja notified the board she is cancelling her lease in Barrigada Heights in response to the intense scrutiny placed on Borja’s signing of the lease. Fejeran also called for CLTC staff members to file declarations showing how they are related to applicants and lessees.

No action taken on “null and void” leases

The AG’s opinion stating that CLTC leases cannot be transferred while the original applicant is still alive was not addressed at the meeting. A review of CLTC documents show hundreds of leases have been transferred while the original applicants are still living – including a lease “inherited” by Senator Regine Biscoe Lee. Lee received land six months after taking over her mother’s application for CLTC land.

Lee called for the AG to investigate the Barrigada Heights controversy – that investigation is still ongoing. The AG’s opinion stated these leases should be declared “null and void” – and they are not subject to the approval of the board.

When asked if she has made any effort to contact the CLTC regarding the status of her lease, Senator Lee responded in a statement saying she “supports the AG’s opinion and will follow any guidance provided to her by the CLTC or AG” – the statement goes on to say Senator Lee “has not received any direction thus far.”

Meanwhile thousands of applicants like Angelo Flores have waited over 20 years, getting the runaround when they ask the CLTC to explain why they’ve had to wait so long.

“Can I be told whether this person has applied before me or after me? They say ‘oh we can’t do that because’ – because, because, because,” Flores said, clearly frustrated.

The Office of Senator Regine Biscoe Lee said, "The Senator has previously made clear through other public statements that she supports the AG's recent opinion and will follow any guidance provided to her by either the CLTC or the AG. As the commission’s meeting was less than 24 hours ago, the Senator has not received any direction thus far. Again, she will adhere to any direction provided, as soon as it is provided and hopes others will do the same."

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