Updated: Dec 27, 2019
By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Ralph Torres appointed a secretary of finance who filed for bankruptcy three times, held a questionable sole source contract for the San Diego medical referral office, and was reimbursed for $14,303.96 for hotel accommodations days before the 2018 general election.
David Atalig, Jr., who also is Attorney General Edward Manibusan's niao and the public official who has approved 2019 reimbursements to Mr. Torres, filed for bankruptcy against his numerous creditors in 2013, and twice in 2015. Despite these facts, which were presented to the Commonwealth Senate during Mr. Atalig's confirmation hearing, the Senate voted to confirm him to lead the public agency having the fiduciary duty over the Commonwealth's finances.
Prior to his present job, Mr. Torres hired Mr. Atalig to lead the medical referral office in California, where Mr. Atalig previously lived. Even that job came with its controversy, as the Torres administration granted Mr. Atalig the job through sole source procurement of his company, Marianas Connections over the objections of the Office of the Public Auditor.
In a June 5, 2018 letter to the director of procurement and supply, OPA legal counsel Ashley Kost wrote, "I would recommend not approving the sole source contract at this time for lack of adequate sole source justification."
The Torres administration ignored the advice.
Within weeks, Commonwealth residents utilizing medical referral services in San Diego began complaining that despite the funding Mr. Atalig's company was receiving, the only transportation services he actually provided were to call Uber for drivers to take CNMI patients to their appointments.
On October 12, 2018, then-Secretary of Finance Larissa Larson approved a wire transfer of more than $14,000 to Mr. Atalig through a Bank of Guam account for reimbursement detailed as hotel accommodations between August 16 through September 30, 2018.
At the time, Mr. Atalig's office was a large home in San Diego valued at more than $1 million. It is unclear why Mr. Atalig needed to spend $14,000 on hotel accommodations; if accommodations were needed for visiting families, his residential office surely was large enough to accommodate them.
The addresses, where Mr. Atalig has lived in San Diego, according to the bankruptcy documents, include a half-a-million dollar condo in the Sofi Canyon Hills, and a home valued at more than $800,000 along Entreken Way.