A 174-page ‘lawsuit’—cui bono?
What happens when the governor delegates authority to her consigliere, i.e., her legal advisor and son-in-law, to cut a deal with a hotel that is deeply in debt to the “family bank?” The attorney general, who had been criticized by senators for not taking action, comes to the governor’s aid.
At the end of December, a runner from the AG’s office shoved a sheaf of 174 pages through the clerk’s window at the Superior Court, enabling a press release resulting in this headline, “AG wants the court to rule on governor’s procurement law powers during pandemic health emergencies.”
All local media outlets reported on the “lawsuit” filed by the attorney general. The governor issued a press release stating in pertinent part, “the suit finds her actions appeared to be consistent with her power.”
Flashback to the beginning of the pandemic when the governor appointed her legal advisor (consigliere?), who happened to be her son-in-law to negotiate agreements with four hotels.
In July of last year Public Auditor Benjamin J. Cruz’s audit stated, “It appears there was a potential conflict of interest having the [office of the governor’s] legal counsel in charge of the initial procurement when their [his] immediate family had a financial interest with one of the awarded hotels, which was publicized in local media articles. Hotel C’s mortgage was with a local bank that the OOG’s legal counsel was previously employed at, and his immediate family is currently employed with and owns, which would be a conflict of interest.”
So, if you had been following this story from the get-go, when you saw headlines about the AG suing, you might have said, “Finally he’s going to do something about the conflict of interest, right?”
Well, that’s the opposite of what happened. There’s a sound argument that the 174-page sheaf of papers shoved through the clerk’s window wasn’t even a lawsuit.
Lawsuits have several essential elements: First, there must be at least two parties, identified as plaintiff and defendant or petitioner and respondent. The 174 pages identify the AG as the petitioner. The part of the caption identifying the respondent, 75 words long, identifies four agreements with hotels. So, the AG is suing the government’s property interests in four agreements. (A good way to improve his won-lost record as the agreements won’t put up much of a defense.)
Second, there must be a case or controversy and of course for that two or more parties are essential. The AG invokes a section of law related to declaratory judgments which reads in pertinent part, “Any person… may, in cases of actual controversy relating to the legal rights and duties of the respective parties, bring an action in the court having jurisdiction for a declaration of his rights and duties in the premises, including a determination of any question of construction or validity arising under such instrument or contract.” Space limitations prevent the listing of other infirmities in the so-called complaint.
Copies of four agreements are attached to the nine-page “complaint.” The Pacific Star agreement isn’t among them nor does the so-called complaint reference the key issue in the hotel procurement controversy. The so-called lawsuit consists of nothing but defenses and justifications for the governor’s actions while omitting any mention of the obvious conflict of interest.
Ultimately all the “complaint” does is give the governor a free pass, provide the threshold for the AG to take a cheap shot at the public auditor, chide unnamed members of the legislature and virtue signal. The AG’s press release: “We [the AG] continue to back up our words with action.”
Cui bono? Even if a judge dismisses the AG’s “complaint” sua sponte, when the GOP comes after the governor during the lead up to the election, the governor will be able to wave the sheath of papers and exclaim, “The AG says I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Bob Klitzkie is a former senator and Superior Court of Guam judge pro tem. He hosts the talk show, “Tall Tales,” on KUSG-FM (93.3 FM) weekday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m.