This year’s gubernatorial election — which is turning out to be a three-way race — is expected to be particularly challenging for each of the candidates who have to navigate political obstacles that threaten to eclipse their platforms. One is facing a criminal case in court for gun-grabbing. Another one is dealing with an allegation of conflict of interest. And the third one is battling criticisms for being a party renegade.
The apparent conflict of interest is the biggest question that Democratic Party’s gubernatorial candidate Lou Leon Guerrero is forced to deal with. Her family owns the $2 billion Bank of Guam, which conducts major transactions with the government of Guam and holds $650 million in GovGuam funds.
Thomas Fisher, attorney for the Republican team, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio and Tony Ada, has raised the question before the Commission on Election: “In light of the standards of conduct for elected persons, may Ms. Leon Guerrero serve as governor of Guam and maintain (or a member of her family) any interests in the Bank of Guam?”
Leon Guerrero, a former nurse and former senator, assumed the presidency of the Bank of Guam in 2006 and took a leave of absence in May 2018 to run for Adelup. During her leave, her son Joaquin Cook assumed the duties of president and CEO of BOG, but she retains her position as chair of the bank’s board.
In an Oct. 10 letter to Maria Pangelinan, Fisher cited Guam law which prohibits elected officials from taking “any official action directly affecting business or other undertaking in which the employee has a financial interest.” Fisher alleged that Leon Guerrero “may reinvest” GovGuam money “at great profit to the Bank of Guam and herself.”
If elected governor, Fisher claimed, Leon Guerrero “will be receiving and directing the government of Guam’s money in to what is in effect her own coffers and also receive income generated by these deposits. This is an obvious conflict of interest and would amount to self-dealing at its worst.”
In a letter to GEC, Fisher said Leon Guerrero, as bank president, made $582,896 in total compensation in 2017; $653,925 in 2016; $46,000 in board and committee fees; an incentive bonus of $200,000, which is 2 percent of net bank profits — on top of other benefits.
“She holds 40.35 percent of outstanding common stock and her mother (Maria Eugenia Leon Guerrero) owns 18.5 percent,” Fisher said. “As of Sept. 28, Ms. Leon Guerrero was entitled to receive a quarterly cash dividend of $388,802.10 and her mother $178,411.40,” Fisher said.
When the conflict of interest question was raised in a press conference on Oct.1, Leon Guerrero said she abides by the rules of ethics.
“If there is any issue of conflict of interest, I will certainly decline from making any of those decisions,” said Leon Guerrero whose team team spent $1 million during the campaign for the primary. “We work with a government system that protects fairness.”
If elected governor, Leon Guerrero vows to follow all policies, rules and regulations against conflicts of interest.
“It has always been my character, from being a nurse to being a senator. These are all areas of professional that requires trust, requires respect and those values,” she said.
Her running mate, Josh Tenorio, said the banking industry is a sector most regulated by federal regulations. “I am very confident that our administration will follow that same tradition,” he said.
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Ray Tenorio, the Republican Party’s candidate for governor, was charged in the Superior Court as a result of the July 7 incident in which he was accused of grabbing a gun from a police officer.
But the lt. governor is unperturbed. “Oh, I’m gonna win,” he said during a table interview at the Guam Women Chamber of Commerce’s political forum on Oct. 4.
“It’s a lot of noise,” Tenorio said of the charges filed against him in court. “If people define you through gubernatorial campaign, then that’s petty. I’ve never been accused of doing more wrong things in my life than when I run for governor. Doing drugs, doing crimes— these are things I avoided all my life. Screen through all the noise and you’ll find the reality behind the campaign.”
Based on the official results of the Aug. 25 primaries, Leon Guerrero and Tenorio are their respective party’s official candidates for governor in the Nov. 6 race.
But Democratic Sen. Frank Aguon is not about to give up. On Saturday, Aguon and his running mate Alicia Limtiaco are expected to launch their campaign as write-in candidates, defying the Guam Democratic Party’s call for adherence to the Unity Pledge, which the Aguon-Limtiaco ticket signed off on.
“From the start, we asked the people to believe in something bigger, something better,” Aguon said in a video message posted on the team’s
“We signed the Unity Pledge in good faith, but the unity pledge should not be used to deny voters a choice in this election,” Aguon said in the video message. “Broken promises and back-door deals are never more important than the people; that is the old way and that is what we are trying to fix.”
Limtiaco also resented the “smear campaign” targeting Aguon during the pre-primary campaign. “Such smear attacks are a breach of trust,” she said.