When commerce and culture collide
AGO says transfer of Chamorro Village to GEDA ‘inorganic’
The executive order transferring control of the Chamorro Village from the Department of Chamorro Affairs to the Guam Economic Development Authority is not legally valid because it is inconsistent with the “applicable law” that governs the market’s operations, according to Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson.
While the governor has the authority under the Organic Act to reorganize the executive branch, Barrett-Anderson cited previous Supreme Court doctrines which held that executive actions must not be “in conflict with any applicable law.”
Transferring the Chamorro Village may be done only through legislative action, the attorney general stated in an opinion issued on July 14 upon request from Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje. The vice speaker sought a clarification on the legality of Gov. Eddie Calvo’s Executive Order 2017-02 issued in February.
The question stems from the overlapping nature of the Chamorro Village market as a commercial activity and a cultural task.
Calvo’s executive order states that “although well intentioned, the placement of the Chamorro Village under DCA has not been to the mutual benefit to either DCA or the Chamorro Village itself, has not maximized promotion of locally-produced products.”
The Office of Public Accountability’s audit released in May showed Chamorro Village’s lease revenue increased by $20,000 from $493,000 in fiscal 2015 to $514,000 in 2016. However, the market suffered a loss of $52,000 due to a $35,000 increase in miscellaneous expenses. While its assets totaled $16,000 in 2016, its liabilities amounted to $143,000, hence a net loss of $127,000.
Calvo believes the market "can be more effectively managed and operated if completely transferred [back] to GEDA.”
Johnny Sablan, DCA president, agrees with the governor’s decision to transfer the operation and supervision of Chamorro Village to GEDA.
“We have been in limbo for many years. With the transfer, we can solicit advice from GEDA to help us in managing the business aspect of Chamorro Village while we at DCA continue implementing our job on the cultural side,” Sablan said.
Noting that the Chamorro Village was designed as an incubator for small businesses that produce locally made products, Sablan said having GEDA supervise the market is a prudent move. “They hire a lot of employees who have business background and can guide small business owners into making proper decisions and making sure their permits are done properly,” he said. “The governor’s executive order makes sense to me.”
The public market for local products — which later came to be known as Chamorro Village — was created through Public Law 14-154 on Dec. 19, 1978 under what was then known as the Department of Commerce.
The department was abolished in 2002, and replaced by the Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority— now known as the Guam Economic Development Authority— which retained control of the Chamorro Village.
However, on June 24, 2002, then Gov. Carl Gutierrez—through an executive order— transferred the personnel, duties and responsibilities of the Chamorro Village to the Department of Chamorro Affairs. Gutierrez’s executive order was ratified by the legislature three years later.
DCA is a non-stock, non-profit public corporation created by the legislature in July 1999.
Although the Chamorro Village was originally created as an entity under GEDA, the attorney general determined that the legislature-ratified 2002 executive order is the law that applies to the market’s operations.
“Whether by executive order or legislative enactment the Department of Chamorro Affairs has had authority over the Chamorro Village since 2002,” Barrett-Anderson opinion reads.
The Chamorro Village, the AG concludes, is a cultural task under the DCA law,
“whose principal purpose is to serve as a catalyst in the preservation, development and promotion of language, arts, humanities, historic and cultural preservation, research, restoration, presentation, museum activities and support programs significant to Guam’ s history and culture, and to enhance the future of the Chamorro people of Guam.”
While it “may very well be true” that the Chamorro Village “can be more effectively managed and operated if completely transferred [back] to GEDA,” Barret-Anderson said “that is a determination for the legislature to make.”