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OPINION: Tell it to Telo: No one is above the law

Submitted by Ray Sanchez Topasna

Ray S. Topasna

A lot has been made of the ethics complaint I filed against Senator Telo Taitague on June 19, 2020. Not surprisingly, she responded by saying the timing of the complaint is “purely political”. Seems that is a typical response by most politicians in hopes that they are not held to account.

On May 19, 2020, at a confirmation hearing for an appointee to the GHURA Board, Senator Taitague clearly made defamatory statements against me which were in violation of the Standard Operating Procedures for Virtual Public Hearings – adopted by the Guam Legislature on May 1, 2020. The rules state the following: “Questions and testimony shall be confined to the substance or nature of the agenda. Personal inference as to the character or the motive of any...individual testifying, is not permitted.” The Senator inferred that the appointee’s acceptance of the Governor’s call to serve as a Commissioner may subject herself to litigation.

That statement is completely false and was made with the intent of trying to discredit me as I continue to expose the corruption of the past administration. As for Senator Taitague’s claim that I was fired due to incompetence, it is no secret that in 2015 I sued the former Board in part to recover the $50-plus million that was intended to build affordable homes for our people, and as well recover some of the funds illegally paid out to attorneys who were part of an elaborate scheme to defraud the US taxpayers.

With my cooperation, federal and local authorities were able to levy dozens of charges against these same public officials who took advantage of many vulnerable low-income families. Sadly, with the change in leadership at the AG's office, most of the charges have been dismissed. But all was not lost as the former Executive Director did in fact plead guilty, two private attorneys were made to reimburse federal funds they illegally received from the housing authority, and both criminal and civil action are still pending against an attorney at the District Court of Guam.

It is laughable that Senator Telo Taitague would continue to remind the people of Guam of ongoing civil litigation directly connected to the corruption of the past. Yes Senator, please keep reminding us so we do not forget sins of your administration. Thank you.

The ethics complaint I filed against her was done specifically to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions. As a cabinet member of the Leon Guerrero / Tenorio Administration, I’m held to a very high standard when I testify at any/all hearings at the Guam Legislature. In fact, I could perjure myself If I were to intentionally make statements at an oversight hearing that I know to be false.

Senator Taitague intentionally made defamatory statements at the May 19 hearing without providing any proof or evidence. Her conduct was not just in violation of their SOPs – not mine - but may discourage others from accepting future board appointments and/or providing public testimony. In her defense, she continues to perpetuate even more false information. Her July 21 press release states that Housing Chairperson Joe San Agustin was surprised by the ethics complaint. So not true...the good senator was the first to know.

Emails and text messages will show that he was informed as early as May 19, the date of the hearing, and that it was my position that she had violated their SOPs. She also stated on the release and on two other occasions that participants at the hearing did not raise issues with her line of questioning. Again not true...the oversight chair politely asked her to “Be Nice”.

As well, the nominee to the Board shared with me immediately afterwards that she felt intimidated by Senator Taitague’s line of questions and felt they were inappropriate. The nominee was even more upset when she found out Senator Taitague’s statements were completely fabricated. In addition, several senators messaged me after the hearing that Senator Taitague was out of line.

We’ve come to expect tough questions from our policy makers at oversight and confirmations hearings. However, their line of questioning should adhere to their own rules, and their conduct must be above board. The Guam Legislature is not a banana republic.

My message to Senator Telo Taitague: No one is above the law...not even those who make the law. The last time I told a bunch of public officials that no one is above the law, they all made front headlines. Mr. Topasna currently serves as the Executive Director at GHURA, and was a former Executive Director at GHURA and Special Assistant to former Governor Calvo

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