Updated: Feb 5
OPA dismisses JMI’s appeal against airport authority; licensing board chief steps down
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Office of Public Accountability has dismissed the appeal filed by a local company against Guam International Airport Authority, citing “misconduct” that involved its attempt to influence the public auditor’s decision by submitting a dubious document.
“Dismissal is the only appropriate sanction available in this case,” Public Auditor Benjamin Cruz said in a statement after tossing out JMI Edison’s appeal filed on Oct. 8, 2021.
The OPA’s ruling released Thursday also prompted the governor’s office to call for the resignation of Cecil Orsini, executive director of the Guam Contractors License Board, who has been called out by the public auditor for obliging JMI’s push.
The scandal stemmed from JMI's protest challenging the airport authority’s award of a contract to Menzies Aviation for management of GIAA’s baggage conveyance systems. It argued that Menzies was not a responsible bidder as it lacked a contractor’s license issued by the Guam Contractors License Board.
After filing the appeal with the public auditor, JMI president Ed Ilao also filed a complaint with the CLB, alleging that Menzies lacked a required contractor’s license.
“In the midst of the procurement appeal, JMI submitted ‘findings and decision’ for a CLB case dated Dec. 22, 2021, which found that Menzies did not obtain a specialty contractor’s license,” OPA said.
Menzies responded by obtaining documents from CLB, via a Freedom of Information Act, which “indicated the CLB ‘findings and decision’ were directly from JMI,” OPA said.
OPA said the documents, which were subsequently submitted to the public auditor, included an email from Ilao to Orsini.
The email read in part: “Bro, we will be having a motion hearing before the OPA on Dec 27th. Last day to file documents is on Dec. 23. Would it be possible for CLB investigations section to be able to sign at least the attached sample letter by Dec. 22nd? This will really help our case.”
Attached to Ilao’s email was a draft document with the subject line: “Case No. 2021-09-04 Findings & Decision.”
The draft decision stated that “the CLB had determined that Menzies required a contractor’s license to perform the scope of work solicited by the airport authority.”
OPA noted that CLB’s Dec. 22, 2021 decision “was a verbatim reiteration of the draft document previously forwarded by Ilao.”
That same day, OPA said, Ilao sent another email to Orsini and other CLB staff, which read: “Thank you very much to all of you! This will help our protest appeal at the OPA a lot.”
At the evidentiary hearing, CLB investigator Nida Bailey told the OPA no board meeting had taken place regarding the complaint against Menzies.
"Concurrence of four members of the CLB Board is necessary for the validity of any of its actions,'" OPA said. "As such, the document represents a fraud on this tribunal, in that it purports to be official 'findings and decision' when it really is just a bro helping out another bro."
In a decision issued Thursday, Cruz said JMI’s submission of a CLB-issued document purportedly based on “independent, neutral findings” was “deliberate and egregious.”
“The ability of JMI to call on a ‘bro’ at the CLB to reiterate JMI’s desired ‘findings’ to help its case herein raises troubling questions as to the probity and reliability of any findings from the CLB,” the OPA said.
Cruz said he gave JMI a chance to “mitigate the harm caused by its misconduct” during a hearing held on Jan. 27.
“Instead of doing so, JMI doubled-down by asserting that the OPA was somehow bound by the fraudulent 'findings and decision',” Cruz said.
“Given JMI’s lack of understanding or remorse for its misconduct, dismissal is the only appropriate sanction available in this case.”
Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor's communications director, described the OPA's report as "troubling."
"The Guam Contractors Licensing Board must have the confidence of the community in order for it to perform its job," San Agustin said.
"Because that confidence is in question, on Thursday, Feb. 3, the acting chief of staff Alice Taijeron had asked for Orsini’s resignation. The administration expects the CLB will convene to address this matter and act accordingly," she added.
Orsini turned in his resignation later that day.
The OPA dismissed the appeal without being able to tackle the main issue related to Menzie’s alleged lack of license. The parties may appeal the decision within 14 days.
In a lengthy statement issued later, Ilao said JMI will elevate its complaint to the Superior Court.
He took OPA to task for dismissing the appeal "without taking any evidence on my use of the word 'bro' or investigating the adoption of the proposed findings by the CLB, or dealing with the merits of the fact that an unlicensed contractor is poised to continue to work at GIAA."
"The allegation is also hurtful since the claim of fraud is based upon the friendly use of the word "bro" in our open communications with the CLB executive director—a fellow Guamanian of Filipino descent," Ilao said.
The JMI president said Menzies "manipulated the OPA into believing that wrongdoing had occurred and that JMI had somehow perpetrated a fraud since the CLB adopted JMl's proposed findings."
"Worse, the OPA has confused the rights that exist for licensed contractors who are subject to license removal, with the processes that apply to unlicensed contractors who attempt to perform work," he added.
Read the full statement here: