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NEWS: Governor admits illegal contracts done at her direction; defends son in law; HUYNH SILENT

Haig Huynh, right, with his best friend, Attorney General Leevin Camacho

By Eric Rosario

(Tumon, Guam) Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero defended her legal counsel and son in law Haig Huynh's conduct of the illegal procurement of hotels for quarantine and said, "I told him to do it."

The governor said she believes Mr. Huynh did nothing wrong, when the Guam Daily Post's John O'Connor asked for her comment about the hotels contracts. When asked about her and her son in law's conflict of interest regarding the hotels that have outstanding loan balances with the Bank of Guam, Ms. Leon Guerrero said, "My only interest is the people of Guam."

She denied the procurement of hotels that would financially benefit her family, and said the hotels were selected following a solicitation by Mr. Huynh and Mary Rhodes that yielded the responses of three hotels. Ms. Rhodes is the president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association; she volunteered to help the government.

No such solicitation document has been disclosed by the government, and according to Civil Defense administrator Charles Esteves, there are no price quotation documents that exist.

There actually are four so-called hotels being used for the quarantine of residents and travelers: Wyndham Gardens Hotel, Days Inn Hotel, Hotel Santa Fe, and the Pacific Star Hotel. When Mr. O'Connor pointed this out, Ms. Leon Guerrero contradicted her first statement about all the sites being selected through a solicitation process, and admitted that the Pacific Star Hotel was later added to the original three.

Of the four hotels, it is the Pacific Star that has the largest note with the Bank of Guam: a $32 million mortgage issued in 2016.

Contrary to the governor's version of events, however, four documents all dated March 18, 2020, indicate Ms. Leon Guerrero selected the four hotels as quarantine sites on the same day, and only four days after the public health emergency started.

Email documents show it was her son in law, Mr. Huynh, who led the selection of and negotiations with the hotels. He also directed the government's financial officers to cut advance payments to the hotels, without any contract executed.

To this day the contracts are with chief procurement officer Claudia Acfalle, who has refused to sign off on the documents because of the incomplete procurement record and the illegal nature of the procurement. According to an email by budget director Lester Carlson, about $142,000 has already been paid.

According to Mr. Esteves, funds have never been certified.

Governor's former chief of staff Anthony Babauta resigned hours before Kandit broke the first story on this corruption scandal and attempted cover up. While he was copied on much of the email documents disclosed to Kandit, it was Mr. Huynh and his legal office who were directing the procurement. Part of that procurement included the electronic use of public health director Linda DeNorcey's signature without her knowledge of permission.

"Linda said she doesn't remember, and that's understandable because she's been very busy," Ms. Leon Guerrero said when asked about the forgery allegation.

Since news of the corruption scandal broke, Mr. Huynh has said nothing. Staff assistant Carlo Branch tried and failed to arrange an off-the-record interview between Mr. Huynh and island media regarding the scandal. Only the Pacific News Center's Kevin Kerrigan agreed to the unethical sit down, and Mr. Branch had to cancel the event, which was scheduled for this morning.

Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, in an interview with KUAM's Sabrina Salas Matanane and Chris Barnett, said the island's attorney general and chief procurement officer should look into the contracts issue. ""I think there are some concerns, obviously," he said.

The governor spoke on the issue for the first time today, but only when asked. Janela Carrera, her director of communications, has neither answered questions on the matter, nor has she issued the public apology for her role in violating the freedom of the press, as the lieutenant governor has told her to do.

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