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Back Local News Taxpayers to pay more for consent decree counsel

Taxpayers to pay more for consent decree counsel

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THE latest federal court order substituting private counsel for the Office of the Attorney General will mean additional litigation costs to pay more law firms to represent the government of Guam, the Guam Solid Waste Authority and the federal appointed receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc.

Citing a breakdown in communication between the OAG and Adelup, District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Friday removed the government attorneys who have been GovGuam's legal counsel for the last nine years.

As a consequence, all the files and documents in relation to the Clean Water Act case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2002 that resulted in a consent decree in 2004 and propelled the appointment of the federal receiver, has to be relinquished by the OAG to Cabot Mantanona LLP, the private law firm hired by the Office of the Attorney General to represent GovGuam in the case.

Cabot Mantanona was initially retained by Adelup for five months (April to September 2013) for $30,000 after a dispute in the litigation strategies in the pending case.

The private law firm was earlier revealed by the receiver, who has conflicts that can cause harm to the bidding process of consent decree projects.

In June, GBB representative David L. Manning, through his special status report, told the court that Cabot Mantanona LLP also represents Hawaiian Rock Products, Hanson Permanente Cement Guam/Hanson Micronesia Cement Inc., and dck Worldwide. Manning said both Hawaiian Rock Products and Hanson Permanente Cement Guam are major suppliers of construction materials on Guam, who have supplied large quantities of materials in connection with the Layon Landfill construction and are highly likely to do the same with the current and future consent decree projects, including the closure of Ordot Dump.

Because of this, GBB is expected to hire a different law firm outside of the legal services of Cabot Mantanona LLP.

At the same time, the Guam Solid Waste Authority is also working on a request for proposal to hire their own counsel to represent them in the case.

Unclear

The latest replacement of the government attorneys with private counsel brought back the same questions on the law that appear unclear when it comes to the role of the Office of the Attorney General as the chief legal officer of the government of Guam.

The Organic Act provides that the OAG is the chief legal officer of the government of Guam, and the Legislature had enacted legislation prohibiting the execution of contracts for the services of legal counsel in the executive branch without the approval of the Attorney General. In 2005, then-Attorney General Douglas Moylan sued the Guam International Airport Authority for contracting a private law firm. One of Moylan’s arguments was the extra cost of retaining private law firms.

In May, the Office of the Governor also replaced the OAG in the tax refund class suit and retained the private law firm of Calvo, Fisher & Jacob.

In its recent court filings before the Superior Court in connection with the gaming machines case, the Office of the Governor also wants the removal of the OAG from the case as well as the dismissal filed by the OAG against the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

A legal expert who requested anonymity said the recent decision made by the chief judge can be brought to a higher court for a review, but it is all up to Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas to take such a legal step.

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