Guam Waterworks Authority can conspire with the Department of Land Management to expand any of its scores of properties throughout Guam and steal your land, and the governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General will do nothing about it.
That just doesn’t happen in America? Well, call us pioneers where America’s day begins. Because it’s already happened. Except in the case of Lot 10184-7, the AG’s office is actually defending what GWA and land management did.
In our continuing coverage of the litigation between DLM, GWA, and CoreTech International over the land, where the Northern District Wastewater Treatment Plant operates, Kandit has delved deeper into the records at the heart of the claims on all sides of the issue.
On one side is the United States government, which condemned the property decades ago from the late Jose Martinez Torres, built the sewage treatment system for the northern part of Guam (including Andersen Air Force Base), then gave the property to GovGuam in the 1990s.
On another side is GWA, which inherited the lease on the property from GovGuam when it replaced the Public Utility Agency of Guam
Then there’s GovGuam itself, which quitclaimed the property to the Torres estate in part of an unprecedented return of thousands of acres of federally-held land to the heirs of pre-condemnation owners.
And then there’s CoreTech, which bought the property and its surrounding lots for more than $100 million in 2014 from the Korean bank that held the note on the property from its previous owner, Younex. Young bought that property from the Torres estate.
GWA general manager Miguel Bordallo has said CoreTech does not and never has owned Lot 10184-7. Every document recorded at land management about the property disagrees with Mr. Bordallo’s assertion. According to a quitclaim deed, a mortgagee’s deed, a certificate of title, and every intertwined document in between, CoreTech certainly does own that land.
The distinction is so clear, it is the reason land management’s former director, Michael Borja, took CoreTech to court in late 2018. The entire premise of its lawsuit is that it – the Guam Department of Land Management – erroneously recognized CoreTech as the owner of the property. In order to change the land records, Guam law mandates court action that exhausts due process.
But that didn’t happen in 2008 and again in 2016, when two different maps were recorded at land management, each the product of an attempt to cure the government’s claim on the land it had lawfully returned in a less than legal way.
In 2008, one year after Younex had already purchased Lot 10184-7 from the Torres estate, land management accepted the recording of what is now known as the Castro Map. The map shows the boundaries of the property in question with a notation that reads “Sewage Treatment Plant. Not returned to land owner.” It is an odd entry for a survey map, and a distinction that a title company, not a surveyor, would make. According to CoreTech executive Henry Taitano, the map should not have been recorded a year after the purchase, and shows GovGuam’s first attempt to lay claim on the land without going through a court process.
Eight years later, and after GWA had gone out to the bond market assuring creditors that it owned Lot 10184-7 outright, GWA had the property surveyed again; this time by Duenas Camacho and Associates. That survey, which was officially recorded despite the absence of the signature of the territorial chief planner, laid the groundwork for the taking of even more land from CoreTech – about 16,000 square meters GWA would annex from Lot 10184-6 and claim as part of Lot 10184-7.
There was no agreement. No court order. No condemnation. No compensation. Nothing. It was simply the stealing of land; and it was government sanctioned.
Ed Ching, CoreTech’s general counsel, showed us the maps and explained the issue:
Speaker Therese Terlaje, who chairs the committee with legislative oversight of land issues, was the only government official, who responded to Kandit’s inquiry into the matter. Kandit asked her whether local land laws and policies that effectively return land previously held by the federal government to the survivors of the precondemnation owners are valid, defensible, and – generally – good public policy despite the reversionary clauses on the master deeds?
“I have sought a full record of the documents filed in the case and will review those before speculating or concluding as to the validity, defensibility, or wisdom of the current policies or if the questioned transactions were in error and isolated,” Ms. Terlaje responded.
Current land management director Joe Borja, and Attorney General Leevin Camacho were the other government officials to whom we addressed the same question, and other questions. They have not yet responded to Kandit’s inquiry.