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Guam's territorial archaeologist overstepped his authority, OAG says

GVB's debris cleanup project disrupted by unauthorized cease-work order

GVB is cleaning up Ypao Park in preparation for a busy summer season of visitors. Photo courtesy of GVB

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

The Office of the Attorney General has fired a warning against Guam’s territorial archeologist for allegedly disrupting the Guam Visitors Bureau’s post-typhoon debris cleanup in Tumon by issuing a cease-work order without a legally founded authority.

The warning stemmed from a harassment complaint filed by GVB president Carl Gutierrez against John Mark Joseph, who ordered the agency’s contractor, UMS Equipment, to stop its work and remove its equipment from the project site at Governor Joseph Flores Memorial Park, also known as Ypao Park, on July 19.

Carl Gutierrez

“This unnecessary harassment and no due process cited, especially during an emergency situation, has delayed our (recovery) efforts," Gutierrez stated in his July 20 complaint submitted to Attorney General Douglas Moylan.

Gutierrez said GVB coordinated the project with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Public Works before deploying its contractor to the site.

"A government of, by, and for the people should make it easier to develop or improve the property if proper procedures are already followed,” the former governor said. "This unwelcomed disruption from Mr. Joseph is a disservice to our community and it is costing the people of Guam thousands of dollars."

In response, Deputy Attorney General Graham Botha agreed that GVB's work did not require a permit since the public works department has “the sole authority to make this determination.”

While nullifying the cease-work order and advising GVB to proceed with the project, the OAG has raised concerns about Joseph’s action. The archeologist is an employee of the parks department.


“He used that position to attempt to unilaterally enforce his alleged violation without first contacting the AG's Office,” Botha stated in a letter to Parks Director Warren Pelletier.

"If Mr. Joseph commits any actions that arise to the level of a crime, i.e. harassment, this Office may be forced to exercise its responsibility as the public prosecutor since such actions fall outside the scope of a government official's authority," Botha added.

He advised Pelletier to “please counsel Mr. Joseph about this incident, and to not exceed his jurisdiction in ways that expose the government of Guam to potential liability arising from harassment type complaints.”

Joseph declined to comment. "That’s something I would need to get permission before I could give you a comment," he said on Facebook Messenger, responding to the Pacific Island Times' request for a statement.

Gutierrez said GVB’s debris-removal project is part of the island’s recovery efforts in preparation for a busy summer season of visitors.

Guam facilities and infrastructure sustained major damage when Typhoon Mawar pummeled the island on May 24.

Last month, Jin Air flew a group of its employees from Korea to help with cleaning up some of the island’s public parks.

The airline partnered with GVB and Pacific Islands Club to pick up debris and trash along Ypao Beach and Matapang Beach in Tumon.

“With so many hands helping each other, we are recovering in record time to welcome visitors back to Destination Guam,” Gutierrez said.

Jin Air ramped up its flight schedule to Guam from Incheon and Busan on June 29. The airline has committed to flying daily from both ports, providing 11,718 airline seats to the island in the month of July.

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