The Guam Legislature should stop the administration from procuring large-scale services and products until an investigation into pandemic-era spending. That investigation should be conducted by Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz, and Attorney General Douglas Moylan.
For most of the last four years, the administration of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero had unprecedented power to spend an unprecedented amount of money without the normal controls that preclude arbitrary procurement. From March 14, 2020 to just a few days ago, Ms. Leon Guerrero and her cabinet had and used the power granted under the Emergency Health Powers Act to move hundreds of millions of federal and local funds.
For whatever reason – and perhaps the task was far too tumultuous for the legislature and the media to apply expected oversight – the Leon Guerrero administration got a free pass to spend as it pleased throughout the public health emergency that ended only last week. The attorney general throughout her first term – Leevin Camacho – refused at every turn and request to investigate suspicious procurements and to hold the governor accountable, where everyone else was without power beyond questioning her. And let’s be real: Lou Leon Guerrero is one of the least, if not the least, transparent governors in our history.
She does not answer questions with direct answers. She scoffs at challenges to her decisions. She requires formal ‘Freedom of Information Act’ letters in order to disclose public documents. And she refuses to provide the legislature with the cooperation and information previous governors have provided in their yield to the first branch’s check on the second branch’s power.
Mr. Camacho and Ms. Leon Guerrero paid little to no attention to audits by Mr. Cruz’s Office of Public Accountability that pointed out several violations of the Guam Procurement Law, even under the guise of the public health emergency.
The standard line from the administration, when asked about the several suspicious purchases, was that the AG had found nothing wrong with what they did.
And two plus two equals 22.
Former attorney general Leevin Camacho (essentially the governor’s water boy throughout her first term), is the AG who did nothing with an OPA audit that found the governor’s son in law had led a multimillion dollar sole source procurement of a hotel at the start of the pandemic. That suspicious purchase involved a hotel that had a multimillion dollar note with the same bank the governor’s family owns. The governor’s son in law, at the time of the purchase, was her legal counsel. He worked at this bank before and after his stint as legal counsel. The AG did nothing.
Senators, including the speaker, the media, and the public demanded to know whether the governor or her immediate family had benefitted from the longterm deposit of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal pandemic discretionary funds into the bank her family owns. Despite compelling evidence of conflict of interest, Mr. Camacho did nothing to investigate the matter.
Some of the richest and most politically-connected businessmen on this island took full advantage of federal pandemic funds, benefitting to the tune of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in purchase orders issued without competition. Documented evidence shows one businessman, who is one of the biggest donors to the governor’s campaigns, sold generic blue face masks to the government for up to three dollars a piece. At the time of the sale, this man’s business had no license to sale personal protective equipment (PPE). He went on to sell all sorts of medical equipment and supplies throughout the government of Guam at premium prices. Another group of businessmen with no previous involvement in medical supplies and equipment sold millions in coronavirus test kits to the government. The list of questionable purchases by the government from already-rich Guamanians who were All In goes on. And these likely are just a fraction of the suspicious procurements using federal and local funds during the public health emergency. The former attorney general did nothing.
Recently, Mr. Cruz released an audit showing the questionable expenditures of federal grant funds at PBS Guam. Had it been any other attorney general, there would have been an investigation premised on the question: Were grant funds used to purchase equipment, supplies, and services that were misused to the benefit of the governor’s marketing campaign for her reelection? No such inquiry began under Mr. Camacho.
During the pandemic, a series of civil lawsuits were filed in local and federal court, here and in Washington DC that should have raised alarm bells for the attorney general about the conduct of the Leon Guerrero administration. The first has to do with the unfair collection of cigarette taxes, and the failure of the administration to put into place legally-binding systems for the counting and taxation of cigarettes; a mandate put into place following several audits showing at least one company absconded on tens of millions of dollars in taxes owed to the people. Then came the lawsuits surrounding the government’s failure to tax alcohol properly. And in the U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C., one of the island’s two shipping companies sued the other, making written allegations of the violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law and by extension, the Guam Anti-Trust Law. Attorney General Leevin Camacho did absolutely nothing to bring justice to any of these issues, even though his former office is entrusted directly as the watchdog of these matters. Look at some of the players in these companies that got away with these alleged violations of the law. The lines between the dots don’t have to be drawn far.
Former attorney general Leevin Camacho failed the everyday people of Guam. His failure to act against corruption came at the expense of hardworking Guamanians who just need a level playing field in order to get ahead. And now, with the public health emergency over, the time to conduct the forensic autopsy on the use of federal and local funds has come.
The tides have changed; the voters made sure of that. In Mr. Camacho’s place is the new attorney general, a familiar face. Guam’s first elected attorney general, Douglas Moylan, made a name for himself as a maverick against the system of cronyism. And now returning as the sixth elected attorney general of Guam, there is great hope he will prioritize the investigation and prosecution of corruption on our island.
And his effort could not come at a more-needed time. Looming on the horizon are gigantic government procurements for the development of a billion-dollar medical campus, Simon Sanchez High School, housing tax credits, and other large-scale government procurements.
Before any of these programs are committed to the scarce dollars the taxpayers and the federal government have committed to GovGuam, it is essential that Mr. Moylan and Mr. Cruz have the time to audit and investigate the use of funds already obligated and spent.
Ms. Leon Guerrero has said she’s done nothing wrong. Fine. It feels nice to believe her words. They just need to be verified. And if she and her administration have done nothing wrong, then she should have no problem yielding to an investigation into her spending the past four years.
Senators, this is a mandate you should consider. You have the power to make this happen.