By Troy Torres
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kandit, as promised, brings to you this chronological series on the Port 7 scandal. This story of public corruption and political intrigue is the largest and longest-running political witch hunt in the history of the government of Guam. The story begins during the first year of the Eddie Calvo administration in 2011, and continues to this day. We are producing this investigative piece because of the age of this story and the many twists and details involved.
(Tumon, Guam) All of the news reports regarding the Port 7 scandal inform newspaper readers and broadcast viewers that the scandal began in September 2011, when then-seaport marketing manager Bernadette Meno slipped in the port's restroom and damaged her spine.
But that isn't where the story actually starts.
2011 is the albatross for anyone lulled into the belief that an era of promise and prosperity had arrived with the island's new governor - Eddie Calvo. He took office in January that year.
He came to office like most other politicians do: with two agendas; the public promises of well-meaning plans he intended to keep; and the changes he needed to make to protect and benefit his family and friends.
Like every elected official, he came to office with an army of supporters.
He also came to office with enemies. And he needed to do something about them if he wanted his plans to work and to stay in office.
How do I know these things to be true? Well, I was in the room most of the time.
I was in the room in 2010, when then-candidate Eddie Calvo blamed a campaign attack on Ms. Meno. In December 2010, I was in the room, when about-to-be chief of staff Franklin Arriola asked transition team surrogate John Mafnas and me how to get rid of Ms. Meno and replace her with a campaign supporter. "She's classified; the port's autonomous," I said. "She'd have to screw up."
I was in the room in January 2011, when Anisia Terlaje, who had been named the seaport's deputy manager, complained to Mr. Arriola that she wanted to be the general manager because, as she argued, only she could control the employees there and their hold over Agat's votes for the 2014 reelection campaign. "I hope to God we're not going through another election," I quipped, exhausted by the election we had just won two months prior.
That was the first time I'd ever heard of Vivian Leon, the de facto head of the seaport and then-corporate service manager. Ms. Leon would be fired along with Ms. Meno nearly two years later. "Viv is for (Carl) Gutierrez and she'll never support us," Ms. Terlaje told us. "She needs to go. I can get rid of her. It's easy. Put me there as GM, I'll get it done."
Unbeknownst to many, there were moves on a chess board being made in the cover of darkness that were far more important to the new governor and his family than Ms. Terlaje's ego or agenda to control Agat. And it wasn't that Ms. Meno and Ms. Leon were enemies of the new governor in the election that had already passed. The real issue was that the two ladies were obstacles to the governor's untold plans now that he was in power.
Ms. Leon for years prior to the Calvo administration was part of the team that was trying to collect lease payments from a company called YTK. YTK was leasing very valuable property from the port, but then was in default of its lease after a number of years. The seaport was trying to get the property back.
The matter went into arbitration. Attorney Jacqueline Terlaje was appointed to oversee the seaport's interests in the matter. Attorney Tony Perez was the legal counsel for the seaport in early 2011.
On January 20, 2011, Ms. Leon's eyebrows were raised for the first time about the Calvo administration's movements. Mr. Calvo had appointed Pedro Leon Guerrero, Jr. to be the seaport's general manager. Mr. Leon Guerrero had been YTK's representative.
On March 4, 2011, three-newly appointed and confirmed members of the seaport's board of directors attend their first meeting. Among them are Daniel J. Tydingco, Gov. Calvo's classmate and close personal friend; Michael Benito, the governor's brother-in-law, and Eduardo Ilao, who had his own run ins with procurement and conflict of interest laws at the seaport.
But it wasn't until March 11, 2011, when the Calvos's plans became a little more clear. That was the day the governor's first cousin, Attorney Eduardo "Champ" Calvo, told Mr. Perez that his law firm now was representing YTK.
Ms. Meno found the revelation suspicious, so she began to investigate. Three days later, on March 14, 2011, Champ Calvo told Mr. Perez that YTK wanted to meet, that it did not want to terminate the lease it had with the seaport, and that it was open to a settlement of the debt.
Then Ms. Meno discovered the truth: the Calvos had bought YTK. She told Ms. Leon. Ms. Leon told Mr. Leon Guerrero. By May 2011, the seaport's new attorney, Mike Phillips, began excluding Ms. Leon and her subordinate, Glenn Nelson, from all YTK dealings.
In a July 11, 2011 meeting with then-assistant secretary of the Interior Tony Babauta, seaport officials discovered that a federal grant had been applied for the seaport that did not originate with the seaport. The grant would have funded private improvements on the Calvos's leased land. Mr. Babauta, to his credit, told all the parties that couldn't be legally done.
It was thanks to Ms. Meno and Ms. Leon that the YTK takeover and the seedy dealings of the Calvos to enrich themselves through the YTK lease became manifest. They were on to one of the first corrupt acts of the infant Calvo administration, involving the governor and his cousin, and facilitated by a cadre of new seaport officials implementing a plan that Eddie Calvo came to office with.
They blew the whistle on corruption. That's where the story of the Port 7 starts.