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A timeline of the Trust

Posted: Jun 10, 2018 3:21 PM Updated:

The following is a timeline of events surrounding the recent controversies at the Chamorro land Trust.

 

April 20 – Barrigada Heights residents complain of flooding caused by DPW’s clearing of a 40-foot access road for Chamorro Land Trust properties in the area. The request was made in late March as part of a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” between DPW and CLTC. Although there are other CLTC properties at which a greater number of people would benefit from the clearing of an access road – particularly in northern Guam – the “gentleman’s agreement” did not appear to be used in those areas.

April 22 – Land Management Director Michael Borja confirms Senator Regine Biscoe Lee and former GDOE Board Chair Peter Alexcis Ada are among 100 CLTC leaseholders in the area of Barrigada Heights that was being cleared without permits.

April 25 – After it is revealed DPW had no permit from EPA to clear property in Barrigada Heights, DPW halts all activity at Barrigada Heights. Senator Frank Aguon reveals he has written to US EPA on the matter and after he meets with UOG he is informed the CLTC property in Barrigada Heights is sitting on top of three groundwater wells – meaning any clearing or construction on the properties would have to be done in compliance with environmental practices dealing with construction on or near groundwater sources.

April 26 –Senator Regine Biscoe Lee releases a statement about her CLTC property in Barrigada Heights. In the statement, Lee said she “never requested the sudden development of an access road to the Barrigada property” and if any “errors in the process occurred, I will rectify them immediately.” Lee further stated her mother had applied for CLTC land in 1995. When her mother was notified her lease was ready, Lee was “gifted” the lease for residential property in Barrigada Heights. Senator Lee writes letters to Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson and Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks calling for a “full review” of leases in the controversial Barrigada Heights area. Lee says she’s calling for the review because of the “appearance of impropriety” and to “promote transparency with the people I serve”. DLM Director Michael Borja says the CLTC is giving out leases at a record pace, with the number of leases awarded increasing 400% from 2016 to 2017.

April 30 – A KUAM News investigative report reveals Land Management employees and their relatives received a significant number of leases in the CLTC’s Barrigada Heights. In an explosive interview, Director Michael Borja reveals he signed off on his sister Catherine Blaz Borja’s lease for property in Barrigada Heights. Borja tells KUAM News his sister lives off-island and since he holds a Power of Attorney authorizing him to handle her affairs, he signed off on the lease as both lessor and lessee. KUAM News’ investigative report also shows CLTC Land Administrator Margarita Borja’s daughter Mariah received a lot in the area. Several employees of DLM and their relatives – including their children, nieces, nephews, cousins and relatives through marriage received leases in Barrigada Heights. KUAM News’ report details roughly 30 leases granted at Barrigada Heights are connected in some way to DLM employees or their relatives. Also granted a lease in the area – the son of former AG’s office chief prosecutor Phil Tydingco. Director Borja is married to Tydingco’s sister.

May 1 – Governor Eddie Calvo calls for a review of CLTC leases given in the Barrigada Heights area. In a letter to CLTC board chair Pika Fejeran, Calve calls for the review to “ensure there is no impropriety”. Governor Calvo signed off on a number of leases given in the area – including a lease for CLTC land administrator Margarita Borja’s daughter, the lease of Director Borja’s sister and the lease of Kekoa Tydingco – son of former chief prosecutor Phil Tydingco. Senator Frank Aguon calls for Legislative Land chair Senator Tom Ada to hold an oversights hearing on controversial leases awarded in Barrigada Heights. Ada responds by saying “I’m not saying no, I’m just saying not right now.”

May 2 – Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson announces she will review CLTC leases given in the Barrigada Heights area. In comments to KUAM News, the attorney general said KUAM News investigative reports had certainly got her attention regarding the CLTC controversy. Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks also responded to Senator Lee’s request to conduct a review of leases – saying the OPA was engaged in conducting other audits, including one on GEDA - requested by the Senator. While DLM Director Borja maintained that all leases for Barrigada Heights were given to 1995 Chamorro Land Trust applicants, a KUAM News review of CLTC documents showed that was not the case. Some applicants for land in the area applied as recently as 2015, and DLM employees, their relatives and other applicants were allowed to switch dates and times with other applicants.

May 3 – CLTC legal counsel Nick Toft reveals there is no legal basis allowing CLTC applicants to switch dates and times with other applicants – calling the procedure an “administrative practice”. In an ironic twist, DLM director Michael Borja says DLM employees should disclose how they are related to CLTC applicants and lessees. DLM staff also report to the board that there are about 5,000 1995 applicants who have yet to be awarded leases for CLTC land. CLTC Land Administrator Margarita Borja explains how her daughter received a lease in Barrigada Heights after switching dates and times with Margarita’s sister – who lives off island.

May 9 – Governor Calvo details special assistant Vince Leon Guerrero to assist the CLTC after board chair Pika Fejeran asked for assistance in addressing public outcry over the CLTC’s awarding of leases in Barrigada Heights. Senator Frank Aguon introduces legislation that would require the CLTC to report proposed leases to the Legislature and the public.

May 11 – Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson releases a legal opinion on the CLTC controversy. In her opinion, the AG said all CLTC leases should be approved by the board and not just the CLTC Administrator – meaning over 2,000 leases not signed by the board are “voidable” – the AG said such leases could be ratified and approved by the board. The AG also opines that living CLTC applicants and leaseholders cannot transfer leases or application rights – declaring these leases should be “null and void” and not subject to board approval. She also opines that any leases which involved switching date and time are “null and void” and also not able to be corrected by the board. Senator Regine Biscoe Lee issues a response to the opinion saying she will “concur with the AG’s recommendations, and I will comply as promised. We all should. It’s the right thing to do.” According to the opinion from the AG, the Senator’s lease for Barrigada Heights property would be “null and void” since the Senator was “gifted” the lease from a living applicant.

May 12 – The OPA releases and audit of the CLTC, saying the Calvo/Tenorio administration effectively raided the CLTC’s survey and infrastructure special fund – “absorbing” $640,000 from the CLTC’s special fund into the General Fund. The survey and infrastructure fund was legislatively created to pay for surveys of CLTC properties and to assist with offsetting the cost of providing necessary infrastructure to CLTC properties. At a budget hearing in June, a representative from the Department of Administration said the money was used to pay payroll and tax refunds.

May 14 – Senator Frank Aguon holds a press conference for his Bill 284 which would call for a moratorium on the issuing of CLTC leases. The moratorium would last as long as it takes to draft rules and regulations for the awarding of CLTC residential and agricultural lots. The bill also called for a temporary receiver to take over the CLTC and would cut Director Michael Borja’s pay by 25% while the moratorium was in effect. Legislative land chair Senator Tom Ada said Aguon’s bill would “kill” the Chamorro Land Trust in the latest back-and-forth between the two senators. Later the same day, Governor Calvo also calls for a moratorium on the issuing of CLTC leases in a letter to the CLTC.

May 15 – Legislative land chair Senator Tom Ada announces a three-part oversight hearing on the CLTC to be held May 22, 24 and 29. The first part would focus on CLTC applicants and lessees and their program assessment. The second part of the hearing would focus on CLTC residential and agricultural program compliance. The third and final segment of the hearing would focus on CLTC revenues and expenditures. In a KUAM news interview on May 1, Senator Ada had said he would need 60 days to prepare for an oversight hearing.

May 17 – A source leaks documents to KUAM News showing information being prepared for the CLTC board. A list of hundreds of “transfers”  shows  “application rights” were transferred from one individual to another – in many cases while the original applicants were still alive – meaning these leases would be “null and void” according to a legal opinion from the Attorney General. The opinion stating the law does not “allow an applicant during his/her lifetime to transfer or switch places with another applicant”.  It is clear the CLTC has abandoned the first-come, first-serve approach that was supposed to govern the doling out of Chamorro homelands. KUAM News also received documents detailing about 30 “switches”. Senator Frank Aguon details how a CLTC applicant who was number 308 on the applicant list “has yet to be contacted over the course of the last 23 years by the CLTC.” Meanwhile, Senator Tom Ada clings to his faith in the system, saying “I want to believe that for the most part, things were done correctly and properly.”

May 18 – In an explosive board meeting before a standing-room only crowd, CLTC board chair Pika Fejeran details a plan to address the AG’s legal opinion and general public mistrust in the CLTC process. Fejeran calls for an audit of all CLTC leases so that the board can better determine which leases would be “ratified” by the board and which ones would be deemed “null and void” as per the AG’s legal opinion. Fejeran also calls for the creation of a bypass list to determine how many CLTC applicants have been skipped over. Fejeran notifies the board that Director Michael Borja’s sister Catherine Blaz Borja has written to the board, cancelling her lease for CLTC property in Barrigada Heights. It is also determined that DLM Deputy David Camacho signed off on 17 “switches” to which Fejeran says she was “floored” to find out. Borja countered that when CLTC was merged with Land Management, it meant that the Deputy of Land Management – Camacho – for all intents and purposes, became second-in-command of everything under the DLM umbrella. Fejeran said the law only allows for the CLTC Administrator – Borja- and the board, to sign off on CLTC documents. The board then votes unanimously to ban Camacho from having anything to do with the Chamorro Land Trust. When asked if the CLTC board still has full confidence in Director Borja, Fejeran tells KUAM News “that’s a question we’re asking ourselves right now.” In the meeting, Fejeran had said “you dropped the ball, Mike” – referring to Borja’s involvement in facilitating the clearing of an access road into the CLTC’s Barrigada Heights property.

May 19 – Senator Regine Biscoe Lee said she “supports the AG’s opinion and will follow any guidance provided to her by the CLTC or AG” when asked if she has made any effort to find out the status of her CLTC lease – which fell under the “null and void” category of the AG’s opinion. Senator Lee said she hadn’t been contacted by the CLTC and hasn’t received “any guidance thus far” on how to proceed with her lease for property in the controversial Barrigada Heights area. Senator Lee had initially said she would “comply as promised” with the AG’s opinion and in calling for an AG review of the Barrigada Heights controversy, Senator Lee had said she would rectify any errors with her lease “immediately”. CLTC documents show Lee received a CLTC lot six months after taking over mother’s “application rights” – meanwhile in an exclusive KUAM News interview, 86-year-old Angelo Flores tells KUAM News he hasn’t been contacted by the CLTC about his application for CLTC property. Flores, clearly frustrated, applied in 1995 and has yet to receive a CLTC lease.

May 22 – An oversight hearing on program assessment by CLTC applicants and lessees is held by Senator Tom Ada. Legislative staffers remark they “had expected a bigger turnout” while some applicants told KUAM News they were “scared to bring up issues and then never get a lease from the CLTC.” Numerous applicants testify and say they haven’t been contacted by the CLTC regarding the status of their CLTC applications, others say they’ve gotten a lot of “runaround” from the agency.

May 24 – An oversight hearing on the CLTC hearing continues with CLTC board chair Pika Fejeran releasing a statement saying “no leases have been voided” and the CLTC is looking at how to proceed with reconciling existing leases with the AG’s legal opinion. Director Borja says “We don’t want to put a panic out there right now.” While the initial rhetoric in the aftermath of the AG’s legal opinion and the CLTC’s May 18 board meeting was hard-line in its tone, there appears to be a softening of that tone as the CLTC realizes just how many CLTC leases are “null and void” according to the AG’s opinion.  After talk of a legislative bailout for leases that were transferred or switched surfaces, one senator – Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje – said “I’ve seen too many bill come through here where we’re trying to make exceptions to existing law and then all the other people who’ve had to comply with the law are treated unfairly in the process.”

May 30 – Senator Frank Aguon calls for an elected treasurer after it is revealed in a CLTC oversight hearing $640,000 from the CLTC’s survey and infrastructure fund was “raided” by the administration. The senator also says an elected treasurer would make it harder to raid “special funds” – something that has happened with increasing frequency during the “budget crisis”.

June 6 – Land Management Deputy Director David Camacho says he’s still bitter about being banned from the CLTC by board chair Pika Fejeran and the board in a unanimous vote. Camacho, in an exclusive interview with KUAM News, says blame for the CLTC controversy should be shared from the “top to the bottom” and that board should’ve asked why “they didn’t sign any leases since they knew we were issuing out a lot of leases.” Camacho, a former lead investigator with the AG’s office, says “if there’s wrongdoing, there’s wrongdoing and they’ll l find it.” Camacho said he followed procedures put in place by previous iterations of the CLTC when he signed off on “switches” and that he was “surprised” when he read the AG’s legal opinion. Camacho said his family was “hurt” by the way Fejeran admonished him publicly. Special Assistant Vince Leon Guerrero – detailed from Adelup to assist the CLTC said he “could understand” why Camacho would feel hurt and that as a fluent speaker of Chamorro, Camacho was an integral part of communicating with manamko’ who seek assistance with their CLTC applications and leases. Meanwhile, Director Borja – who signed off on several of his relatives’ leases for CLTC land – goes relatively unpunished.

June 7 – Special Assistant to the Governor Vince Leon Guerrero says a “full review all CLTC leases” ordered by board chair Pika Fejeran will likely be completed by September. Leon Guerrero says he is helping the staff and the board conduct the review and determine best practices for the CLTC moving forward. In his initial research, Leon Guerrero says the law does allow for a “deputy administrator” of the CLTC to sign off on documents.

June 8 – CLTC board chair said the board is continuing to review leases that fall into the “null and void” category of the AG’s legal opinion – leases that involved switching date and time and leases that were transferred from a living applicant - Fejeran said a “course of action” will probably be determined at the CLTC’s next board meeting on June 21. Meanwhile, the AG’s investigation into the awarding of leases at the CLTC’s Barrigada Heights property continues. The AG’s office had seized all documents relative to the controversial area at the beginning of May and the investigation into whether or not DLM employees and their relatives were given preferential treatment has been ongoing since boxes of leases and supporting paperwork were taken from the CLTC’s offices in Tamuning.

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