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UOG goes on credit card spending spree while it raises tuition

By Jacob Nakamura

(Tumon, Guam) A partial review of University of Guam credit card transactions over the past four years reveals hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by employees on plane tickets, clothes, hotel rooms, electronics, and seemingly endless lists of Amazon purchases. This spending on 15 credit cards issued to faculty and staff of the University was occurring against the backdrop of UOG's attempts to raise student tuition and its above-normal receipts of General Fund subsidies.

Kandit sent UOG's president, Thomas Krise, a Freedom of Information Act request for the documentation December 14. Today the ream-stack of transactions were available for our inspection; copies will be made and available for our newsroom tomorrow, December 31.

Of the portion of the stack we were able to inspect prior to the close of business today, scores of plane tickets aboard United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Korean Airlines, Delta, Fiji Air, Air New Zealand and Cebu Pacific were made from a credit card issued to UOG controller Zenaida Nace. Multiple purchases of electronics from B&H and from Amazon, including MacBook laptops from Apple, a top-of-the-line Apple desktop multiple Canon digital cameras, thousands of dollars in apparel from Hanes, and even two waterproof cases for iPhones and 15 compact discs of The Supremes Greatest Hits were purchased by credit cards issued to Rachel Leon Guerrero and Dr. Tom Schill.

Ms. Leon Guerrero's credit card also features a $2,699.50 purchase from FITBIT, INC., and an Amazon Marketplace purchase of a Pack of 4 Table Tennis Set.

Hundreds of retail purchases through Amazon raise a couple of questions. The first involves the territory's procurement policies and whether UOG's purchases align with the government's Buy Local policies. The second is whether the university is skimming the procurement process by making several purchases for items below the $500 mark through multiple online vendors in order to circumvent the requirement to attain three price quotes locally.

Then there's the issue of the money spent leaving Guam and never circulating in the local economy because the online purchases are for stateside and, in some cases, foreign transactions.

The University, which hides behind thinly veiled threats that if the Legislature does not give them unparalleled spending authority, its faculty union will complain to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and jeopardize accreditation. The Legislature has given in to the university every time, including exempting UOG from strict credit card controls following the credit card splurge scandal of 2003. That was when former Guam Economic Development Authority managers, including current budget director Lester Carlson, Jr. were found to have abused credit cards issued to them with tens of thousands of dollars in spending at local buy-me-drinkie bars and off island drunk fests.

Lawmakers put an end to credit card usage for all but a select few offices within the government of Guam following that scandal. In recent years, however, the rules became lax for UOG, which the Legislature often has deferred to.

Meanwhile, these credit cards were being charged as UOG's Board of Regents told an angry mob of students who walked out of classes in protest of an impending tuition increase October 16 that the tuition hike was necessary because of the University's financial condition. The Regents voted to gradually increase tuition by 30 percent over the next few years. The first of the increases will happen in the Fall semester, 2020, when tuition will increase by five percent.

Kandit will continue this coverage into UOG's credit card usage over the past few years tomorrow.

Snapshots of some of the pages of the transactions follow:

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