A video leaked to Kandit shows Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero at the beginning of the pandemic angrily protesting an effort by then-Speaker Tina Muna Barnes to provide financial relief to medical clinics that were designated by the governor herself as COVID testing sites.
“No clinic, not a single clinic, has done a single thing for Guam,” Ms. Leon Guerrero’s then-legal counsel Haig Huynh exclaimed to Ms. Muna Barnes in the undated video.
Mr. Huynh is married to the governor’s daughter. The video depicts Ms. Leon Guerrero and Mr. Huynh in the governor’s chambers at Adelup engaged in a Zoom conversation with Ms. Muna Barnes. The former legal counsel resigned his post mid-way through 2020, following a pandemic-related procurement scandal involving the Pacific Star Hotel and the use of federal CARES Act funding.
“My major concern, and I’m now going to feel the heartache from these vendors, especially as it relates to the clinics that have been helping out, and them not being able to give their employees because they don’t have the cash readily available,” Ms. Muna Barnes states at the beginning of the video excerpt, before the governor angrily interrupts her.
“Wait, hold on! Hold on,” the governor yells, “We’re not paying the clinics anything! We’re not!”
Mr. Huynh specifically mentioned American Medical Clinic, FHP, and Seventh Day Adventist Clinic.
Those three clinics, along with public health clinics, were designated by the governor as test sites at the beginning of the pandemic. All three clinics were made to believe they would be compensated for their expenses, but that did not happen.
Despite Mr. Huynh’s protests in the closed-door meeting footage that “not a single clinic has done a single thing for Guam,” an April 29, 2020 public health briefing giving credit to the clinics states, “We have significantly flattened the curve with our efforts … The key to winning this war against COVID-19 is the expansion of testing capacity in a responsible and strategic fashion.”
The governor’s designation of those clinics is a power a Guam governor has during a state of public health emergency that is linked to her power under the Emergency Health Powers Act to deprive any citizen or business of private property without due process or just compensation.
Sen. Chris Duenas is pushing his Bill No. 7-37, which will take away that and other powers from the governor upon the next public health emergency. In a public hearing Tuesday night, Dr. Hoa Nguyen testified in support of the bill, telling senators that doctors learned quite a bit from the pandemic. And that among the lessons were that no one should have the right to deprive citizens of liberty or property, even amid a disease outbreak.
Dr. Nguyen’s testimony is especially poignant because during the pandemic he had served as chairman of the governor’s Physicians Advisory Group. He also is an owner at AMC.
The particularly striking portion of the leaked video isn’t so much the closed-door contempt the governor appeared to have against the very medical clinics she forced into ‘flattening the curve,’ but her insistence against using federal pandemic funds to compensate these clinics.
In March 2020, Congress passed and then-President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. Among the funds Guam received was $117 million in discretionary aid. Among the chief-purposed uses of that money was to fund testing (remember, at that time, there was no vaccine), and medical needs.
“They wanted GovGuam to use the $117 million to subsidize their operations to the tune of $300,000 for every two weeks,” Mr. Huynh told Ms. Muna Barnes. “All three of those clinics, each wanted $300,000 for every two weeks, so $600,000 a month for each one of those clinics to do nothing.”
But as we all know in hindsight, those clinics were doing everything, and their employees were the most-exposed employees of the island aside from hospital workers.
And despite this fact, both the governor and her legal counsel at the time protested subsidizing these clinics while:
- GovGuam employees were being paid to stay at home.
- GovGuam employees were being paid differential pay from that $117 million source.
- Millions were spent on hotel quarantine payments.
- Hundreds of sole source contracts using that $117 million source were issued to cronies of the governor for everything from outrageously-priced face masks to golf carts.
And, yes, that is a portrait of Lou Leon Guerrero behind Lou Leon Guerrero.