Port board meeting gets tense over YTK litigation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Port board meeting gets tense over YTK litigation

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Tensions were high over public comments by Port Authority of Guam general manager Rory Respicio about the high-profile YTK litigation.

The case involves a now $17 million arbitration award the company won from the Port over the lease of Hotel Wharf. It's now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Guam, and a decision is pending. But tensions rose at a Board meeting Tuesday when member Oscar Calvo lashed out at Respicio for meeting with YTK without consulting the board.

"And for the record," Respicio explained, "I was the one who approached the principal owner of YTK on my own volition. No formal discussion, I did not commit the Port Authority board, I did not purport to speak on behalf of what the Port would do, but in order for me to come back to the board and ask for direction I need to first see if there's any opportunity to look at those mitigating issues."

Upset, Calvo responded.

"I don't know how all the other board members feel, but I certainly don't feel comfortable. I don't think so it's a fair play," he said.

Respicio interjected, "I think, Mr. Board of Director, you're going to feel more uncomfortable if these judgments are handed down."

Calvo responded, "So what you're saying there, Rory, you're predicting on whatever the judgments are, okay? Let it go to the court system, okay? Irregardless of that, it's in the court's hands."

The tensions also spilled over into the discussion about new legal representation. Respicio got approval to hire in-house counsel to save money, and will also contract a separate firm to handle specialized litigation.

Incumbent counsel Mike Phillips is expected to be retained only until June to continue with the YTK case, but board members still weren't pleased, and chairman Frank Santos found himself playing referee.

"So this port attorney is just for the Port to take care of it, you know, it's always good check and balance," Santos said.

Calvo responded, "but why would you need two attorneys at this time when we got one. Then you'd be paying off two different attorneys at the same time, Mr. Chairman." 

"No you won't, Mr. Director," Respicio responded. "If you have an in-house attorney that will be responsible for day-to-day operations that the Port needs to handle. And the board gave me authorization to begin the RFP process, which is also an agenda item, and that will be for specialized legal maritime services so what you would avoid having a firm doing things that an in-house attorney could otherwise do at a much reduced rate."

The board decided to table the decisions on in-house counsel and a legal specialist for a later special meeting. It also didn't dissolve into a scheduled closed executive session where the board was supposed to discuss the YTK litigation.

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