Public health officials face more criminal charges as students go back to unsafe schools

As most public school students spent their first day back to school in unsafe, mold-infested classrooms, the two men responsible for forcing the Guam Department of Education to comply with legal sanitary standards were issued a summons to appear in court, where additional criminal charges were filed against them.

Douglas Moylan

Attorney General Douglas Moylan and his government corruption division at the Office of the Attorney General of Guam secured a superseding indictment against Arthur San Agustin and Thomas Nadeau in the Superior Court of Guam. Mr. San Agustin, the director of public health, and Mr. Nadeau, the chief of the public health agency’s division that issues sanitary permits, were indicted in July by the grand jury on several counts under several charges stemming from the alleged illegal permitting of schools that should have failed safety and health inspections.

Prosecutors Tuesday convinced the grand jury to add the special allegation of Crimes Against the Community to each of the charges, enhancing the charges and raising the stakes for the two officials as their case goes to trial.

If convicted of any of the counts under any of the charges, the officials would face a greater number of years in prison with the addition of the special allegations.

Guam law describes a crime against the community as one that creates a threat to the public health and safety.

The underlying charges of the case allege the officials tampered with public records and obstructed the legal process of certifying the safety and sanitation of several school facilities by them issuing sanitary permits to schools without the necessary sanitary inspections by Division of Environmental Health inspectors. Mr. Nadeau is the administrator of the DEH. Mr. San Agustin is the final signatory on the permits.

The issuance of these permits spans a two year period and includes permits to Simon Sanchez High School, George Washington High School, Southern High School, P.C. Lujan Elementary School, D.L. Perez Elementary School, Price Elementary School, Jose Rios Middle School, Wettengel Elementary School, Oceanview Middle School, Agueda Johnston Middle School, J.Q. San Miguel Elementary School, Juan M. Guerrero Elementary School, F.B.L.G. Middle School, Adacao Elementary School, and Tamuning Elementary School.

Almost all of those schools have lists of deferred maintenance dating back to the administration of Felix Camacho. All but one of those schools were due for some type of structural repair, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessment in the early part of last decade.

The Guam Department of Education, year after year since the administration of Carl Gutierrez in the last century, has been underfunded by the Guam Legislature and governors, making it impossible for GDOE to prioritize resources for regular maintenance.

Earlier this year, the island’s new senators appropriated $20 million to GDOE to help with maintenance. The administration never remitted those funds to GDOE, and instead diverted the money to an office under the governor’s office that would decide what companies get which contracts for maintenance issues. That was followed by Public Law 37-4 by Chris Barnett, passed over the objections of Lou Leon Guerrero, the governor. That law forebade the opening of schools without a sanitary permit being issued this past summer.

At the eleventh hour, and as GDOE and other officials finally were making haste to make school repairs and clean campuses, the legislature reneged on its position and passed a new law allowing the schools to open without sanitary inspections and permits.

Those unsafe, unhealthy campuses opened today.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *