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Land decisions conducted in secret

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) Part of the process of giving away valuable public land in Piti was conducted in secrecy, in violation of the Open Government Law.

We began, Monday night, our coverage of the corporate takeover of prime Piti land by GTA for a $1 billion underground cable project. Under the terms of a 40-year lease between the government and GTA, GTA will pay the Piti Mayor's Office $1,000 a month for a large tract of Marine Corps Drive-fronting land.

Dan Tydingco

The lease was made possible by a law authored by former Senator Tom Ada, who previously employed Dan Tydingco. Mr. Tydingco brokered the political arrangement behind the scenes, coordinating backroom agreements among Piti Mayor Jesse Alig, Mr. Ada, and former Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The law was made possible, not just by a vote of the Legislature but by a prerequisite - approval of the plan by the Piti Municipal Planning Council prior to legislative passage.

Secret meeting of the Piti MPC

On December 5, 2018, the Piti MPC indeed met for the special purpose of reviewing and passing a resolution approving the plan to lease LOT 5NEW-R1, BLOCK 2 - the parcel of land across the Piti Catholic Church, which included the only basketball court and public playground in the village.

The problem with that vote is that no one outside the players involved knew the vote was to happen, including the residents of Piti. Mr. Alig confirmed to Kandit that no public notice was given of the meeting.

In the Open Government Law, under §8107(b) of Chapter 8, Title 5, of the government code, the Legislature is very clear that a public notice is required:

Any public agency which holds a meeting not previously scheduled by statute, regulation or resolution, or for which notice is not already provided by law, shall give five (5) working days public notice of such meeting, and a second notice at least forty-eight (48) hours, prior to the start of such meeting as required by this Chapter

The Legislature also is very clear about the consequences of holding a meeting in secret:

Any action taken at a meeting in violation of any Section of this Chapter shall be void and of no effect

The backroom deals in the Legislature

Former Sen. Tom Ada introduced the law that approved the lease with GTA on November 13, 2018. It was designated then as Bill No. 370-34. By the time of the bill's introduction, it is abundantly clear that Mr. Ada had conducted at least one meeting with other government officials and GTA, none of which was publicly noticed or open to the public, for that matter, in violation of the Open Government Law.

Former Sen. Tom Ada

In the first paragraph of the bill, Mr. Ada reveals that Piti Mayor Jesse Alig and the Piti Municipal Planning Council had already been negotiating a lease with GTA, which requested a 50-year lease term. Neither the lease proposal, the negotiations, nor the meetings among Mr. Alig, the MPC and GTA were ever conducted in public, or with any notice of any such meeting.

The negotiations with GTA raises another matter: did Mr. Alig follow the government's procurement process in order to lease the land? What about the Piti MPC, which is as culpable as the mayor himself?

The bill moved at record speed. By November 20 the bill was referred to Mr. Ada's committee. By November 30, Mr. Ada had scheduled a public hearing on the bill exactly five business days later on December 10, 2018. Without any notice to the public, the Piti MPC conducted its December 5 meeting to approve the lease from their end ahead of the legislative hearing that would allow the lease to happen, since the lease term surpasses the legislative prohibition on leases longer than five years at a time.

Former Gov. Eddie Calvo

The hearing happened on December 10, and within two days Mr. Ada had circulated the committee report for it, in time for the Committee on Rules meeting that would include the reported bill to the floor of the last legislative session of the 34th Guam Legislature. Bill No. 370-34 passed the Legislature seven days after it was reported out, on December 19. Two days later, former Gov. Eddie Calvo signed it into law.

Hardly any notice was given on this law that gave away prime Piti land for 40 years to a company that will profit from a $1 billion underwater cable project.

Beachfront property now eyed

That brings us to the next part of this secret deal, where more secret meetings and deals are occurring. According to the June 5, 2019 meeting minutes of the Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors, Mr. Alig has again been negotiating with GTA on the lease of the property across the land already given to GTA. This property is a bigger tract - oceanside at that - called Santos Memorial Family Park.

According to GEDA administrator Melanie Mendiola, this is Chamorro Land Trust Commission property. The CLTC previously cleared negotiations for the lease of the land to GTA, and that's how the proposal came to GEDA. While the GEDA meeting was publicly noticed according to the law, neither Mr. Alig's meetings with GTA, nor CLTC's meetings with Mr. Alig ever were made public or noticed by law.

No bill has yet been introduced to approve any such lease with GTA for this valuable property adjacent to the entrance of Apra Harbor. It is unclear how far Mr. Alig is in negotiations for this proposed lease, or how much the Piti MPC knows about it. One member of the MPC, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by Mr. Alig, told Kandit that this member is unaware of the mayor's movements on this latest project to give away even more of the people's land to another Dan Tydingco Land Scam.

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