The old saying, ‘The writing’s on the wall,’ must be resounding in a legal battle to resolve GovGuam’s most expensive land scam. Guam Waterworks Authority, reeling from a losing streak in a court battle it waged against Core Tech International over disputed Ukudu property, now wants to change its complaint against CTI.
In an eleventh hour motion to amend its operative reply to CTI’s counterclaims on the property, where GWA operates the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant (NDWWTP), the island’s public water agency is seeking to change its claims to ownership of the property – Lot No. 10184-7 – before Judge Elyze Iriarte issues a significant and long-awaited decision. The parties in the case, which also includes the government of Guam, argued in December CTI’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss both GovGuam and GWA’s case. The court took the arguments under advisement, and may issue a decision any day now.
If the court dismisses GovGuam and GWA’s claims to the property, the case will turn exclusively to CTI’s counterclaim on the land – a claim that could upend GWA’s finances with a $200 million award of inverse condemnation and other damages to CTI.
GWA has good reason to worry. The agency has lost every battle in the case thus far, with the judge last November writing in a decision and order that it is questionable whether GWA has any right to occupy the land and operate the plant itself. GWA then rushed to get the Guam Supreme Court to reverse Judge Iriarte’s order and decision. Last month, the island’s high court rejected GWA’s motion.
The case, which now awaits trial before Ms. Iriarte, began in the final days of the last administration, when then-director of land management Michael Borja sued CTI to seize title from the company on Lot 10184-7 Ukudu. GWA joined the case months later. The clincher: CTI, the owner of the property according to legally-filed land documents at DLM, did nothing to provoke the lawsuit, and actually continues to be assessed and pay property taxes on it.
From 2015, when CTI bought the land, to December 2018, the company quietly allowed GWA to operate the plant, undisturbed. There was no bill for rent, no skirmish about the operation of a sewage treatment plant near barracks and other land owners nearby, and certainly no lawsuit to get GWA to pay the landowner. And then, something strange happened: Mr. Borja sued CTI, embroiling the island’s taxpayers and GWA’s ratepayers in a now-four-year standoff that three decisions in the case point to the possibility of major damages being owed to CTI.
The first decision was an admonishment of the Office of the Attorney General, where Ms. Iriarte ordered the government, and thus the taxpayers, to pay attorneys fees to CTI. The second was the November 30, 2021 decision and order that, among other issues, declared CTI’s ownership interest in the property and questioned whether GWA had any right to occupy the property at all. And the third, which happened last month, occurred in the Guam Supreme Court.
In that last effort to quash the case, the two agencies filed a petition for Interlocutory appeal with the Guam Supreme Court claiming they have been irreparably harmed and that they disagreed with Judge Iriarte’s decision to also deny their motion for summary judgement.
“This court DENIES Plaintiff-Appelants, Government of Guam, Joseph M. Borja, in his capacity as Director of Land Management, and Guam Waterworks Authorities Petition for Permission to file Interlocutory Appeal,” wrote the justices. Included in their decision the justices also wrote that land owner Core Tech International has every right to pursue damages in the trial court and that the Supreme Court had no evidence before it to intervene.
It has now been more than a year that Kandit has closely followed this case which is proving to be one of, if not the biggest, land scams and controversies in our island’s history. The story has involved serious consequences to our people by GWA’s and Land Management’s decision to initiate this lawsuit in the first place.