The Governor vetoed a bill that would prohibit Government of Guam agencies from hiring the legal assistance they need and instead rely solely on the already strained resources at the Office of the Attorney General of Guam.
While the bill would have allowed executive agencies to hire private counsel on a case-by-case basis, it would have required the agency to gain approval from the Attorney General and the Legislature. The Governor vetoed similar legislation previously proposed.
Bill 30-33 is inorganic and violates the doctrine of separation of powers. Also, it purports to promote cost savings, something history shown is inaccurate.
“As I stated in my veto message to Bill 180-32, requiring that an autonomous or executive branch agency certify to the Legislature its need for legal counsel is an act that intrudes upon the Governor’s Organic Act authority to administer the Executive Branch,” the Governor stated in the veto message.
The bill presumes that this process would save money and the Vice Speaker points to the Guam YTK Corp case with Hotel Wharf, saying a $14 million payout could have been avoided if the Office of the Attorney General had been involved. To set the record straight, it was the Office of the Attorney General signed off on the contract to begin with.
“In attempting to promote cost savings, Bill 30-33 viciously insinuates that outside legal counsel is to blame for the recent award of $14 million rendered against the Port Authority by an arbitration panel in the Guam YTK case,” the Governor states in the veto message.
“However, it is a fact that the Office of the Attorney General signed and approved the YTK contract in 2001, even though the contract contained a glaring arbitration provision that contradicted and waived the Guam Government Claim’s Act. The Guam Supreme Court cited this arbitration provision as the exclusive reason for holding the Port Authority liable under the contract. And if this was not enough, in September 2004, the Office of the Attorney General advised the Port Authority against terminating the lease contract with YTK and to instead go forward and issue YTK a notice to proceed.
“Suffice to say, if the Office of the Attorney General had not approved the lease or the arbitration provision, the liability of the Port Authority would have been limited to $300,000, instead of $14 million. And if the Attorney General had not advised Port Authority against terminating the contract, a number of steps could have been taken at that early stage to prevent the future $14 million award,” the Governor stated.