Why is the AG unwilling to sign a “letter of substantial interest” that will allow the rebuilding of a new northern high school?
The badly needed reconstruction of Simon Sanchez High School continues to languish due to a procurement protest that could delay the project by years. Meanwhile, another group of students will have to attend a school in substandard conditions.
Simon Sanchez High School’s nearly 2,000 students and 140 administration and staff have seen shortened instructional days with dual session because a portion of the campus was shut down for safety reasons. One year, the school had to cap its student population and denied new students, which meant some kids had to go to other schools, stressing those facilities.
In 2013, the Governor came up with a plan to modernize Guam’s public schools and ensure they’re safe.  It started with the renovation of Untalan Middle School and opening Tiyan High School. The next step in the Governor’s plan was the $100 million renovation/reconstruction of Simon Sanchez High School, including preparation of a comprehensive master plan to upgrade the other schools as well as actual construction upgrades.
In June 2015, the Department of Public Works issued an RFP and after a legally mandated evaluation and negotiation process, awarded a “Notice of Intent to Award” the contract for the renovation and other work to the Guam Education Financing Foundation. GEFF constructed Adacao and Liguan Elementary and Okkodo and Astumbo Middle Schools.
Project delayed
Work to rebuild Simon Sanchez High School should have started by now but the project has been delayed due to protests by Core Tech International. DPW denied both Core Tech’s protests as meritless. Core Tech is appealing the denials.
Recently, DPW filed a determination to move forward with the award of the contract, despite the protest, as “necessary to protect the substantial interest of the territory,” as allowed under Guam Law [5 Guam Code Annotated Section 5425]. However, the law requires the Attorney General to concur with DPW’s determination, which the Attorney General has recently refused to do.
“We are extremely puzzled at the Attorney General’s recent decision, especially since we’ve been relying on the AG’s office for legal advice from the very beginning, as we are required to do by law,” said DPW Deputy Director Felix Benavente. Benavente was referring to another Guam Law [5 G.C.A. Section 5150], which requires that for any procurement in excess of $500,000, the Attorney General or her designee “shall act as legal advisor during all phases of the solicitation process.”
“DPW followed the AG’s office advice in the drafting of the RFP and in the awarding of the contract. When DPW rejected Core Tech’s protests, we did so based on the advice of the AG’s office,” Benavente said. “So I can’t understand why the Attorney General isn’t using her authority to move this project forward.
“The lawyers from AG’s office who were assigned to work with DPW have also recommended that this award should move forward without delay. Yet the Attorney General is refusing,” Benavente said. “What’s the point in our being required to go to the AG’s office for legal advice if we can’t rely on that advice, or if the Attorney General is not willing to stand by the recommendation of her own lawyers? It now seems as if they’re admitting they didn’t give us the right advice.”

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