Judge grants full substitution of AG's Office in Ordot case
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Finding that there is a clear breakdown in communication, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood granted the Governor's Office's motion to have a full substitution of counsel to represent the government's best interests in the Ordot consent decree case. The court has yet to rule on a request to stay the case.
Finding that new facts have emerged, the chief judge today granted Adelup's motion for a full substitution of counsel. Gatewood noted that substitution of the attorney general's office is warranted due to a "breakdown in communication" between the AG's and Governor's offices as well as "an atmosphere of non-cooperation".
The court said she was surprised to learn that the AG's Office was taking instructions from the receiver by refusing to turn over documents in the client files in August when requested by Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio. The judge said the information should have been disclosed and expressed concerns that without the lieutenant governor's consent, the attorney general cannot represent any government entity in the case despite its institutional knowledge of the case. It's an argument the Governor's Office has been making for months as they claim the government hasn't been adequately represented by the AG's Office.
Assistant AG Patrick Mason defended the work of the office for the last six years, saying he was "shocked and dismayed" by what was presented to the court as the office has done its best to comply with the consent decree with the Governor's Office.
So with the full substitution, the court now has before it a motion for a stay of the case and any pending procurement for the closure of the Ordot Dump until the Governor's Office gets a better handle on what the federal receiver has obligated the government to. "I think the primary concern as far as I and the governor are concerned is that the people of Guam can afford to pay for what we really need to comply with the consent decree," Tenorio noted. "I don't think anybody really wants dirty water or to have littered property. We all want to do the right thing but the question is can we afford to do it."
Attorney Rawlen Mantanona told the court that the government has been left in the dark to the actual full cost of the dump closure and maintains that the costs will exceed that which the federal receiver has disclosed which will have a direct impact on the government's ability to provide services to its people.
USEPA attorney Rob Mullaney refuted the claims, calling them baseless. He stressed that the federal receiver has made it clear that there are sufficient funds under the bond money to pay for the closure. Mullaney telling the court it is unacceptable that the government wants to stay the case when the receiver is at the threshold of closing the dump - something that was supposed to have happened six years ago. The USEPA contends that any stay of the case will only be an environmental and health hazard and end up costing the government even more money. Mullaney reminded the court that the USEPA has not enforced the stipulated penalties of $5,000 a day for failure to close the dump but could file a motion at anytime to force the government to pay up.
While the USEPA tried to imply that the only real reason for the stay is to serve the interest of the governor and his family and the original landowners by paying a growing $32 million judgment for the Layon land, the lieutenant governor vehemently disagrees and says it's about much more than that.
"It's whether or not we have truly been represented that the interest of the people of Guam through their attorney, attorney general or Cabot Mantanona in this case now that the ruling has been made in this matter, has been best represented. If we're not a party to the conversation we're not aware of really everything that's going into it," he said.
Federal receiver representative David Manning told the court that a stay would not only endanger the project and delay it by at least one year but he maintains it would increase the costs significantly and require the project to be re-bid.
"No one wants to see it delayed. Not I nor the governor nor you no one on the island wants to see a delay 4:06 but at the same time we also want to make sure that the interests of the people of Guam has been properly represented is the best way I can put it," he said.
The court took the matter under advisement.