WORKERS SAY GUAM EX-GOVERNOR TOOK MATERIALS

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By  Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 25) - A former Government House employee testified that he used a Department of Public Works truck to deliver about 20 bags of cement to former Gov. Carl Gutierrez's Urunao ranch.

A Department of Parks and Recreation employee said in court he brought a government-owned mulching machine, placed it about 150 feet away from the ranch and left it there for up to six months.

And a Guam Police Department officer testified that while he was part of Gutierrez’s executive security, the officer helped the former governor clear rock at the ranch, and noticed government of Guam employees, including other officers, also doing work at the Urunao ranch.

This was among the testimonies presented in the ongoing trial of Gutierrez, his former chief of staff, Gil Shinohara, and former airport Executive Manager Gerald Yingling. The defendants face charges ranging from theft of property to conspiracy for allegedly using government resources and personnel at Gutierrez’s two-level cliffside ranch in Dededo.

Jurors also had a glimpse of the Urunao ranch as video footage that was taken during a search in January was shown in court yesterday. The video included the exterior of the ranch and images of solar panels, wood paneling, light fixtures, a water tank and red bricks.

The trial began on Monday but was recessed for two days because a male juror was sick. The juror returned yesterday. On Tuesday, a woman juror was excused from the trial because of financial hardship. A female alternate juror replaced the excused juror yesterday, keeping the jury panel at seven women and five men.

Before the trial began, Superior Court of Guam Judge Katherine Maraman listened to a motion from the government requesting that the jurors be allowed to do a site visit of the Urunao ranch and Triangle Park.

Assistant Attorney General Marianne Woloschuk asked that a site visit be granted to help the jury understand the case. She said the visit will help the "fact finders" see the alleged similarities between the ranch and the park, adding that the same materials appear to be used at both areas.

"By allowing a visit to the ranch itself, they’ll get the full story," she said. "If a photo is worth a thousand words, a site visit is worth even more."

Defense attorneys said they oppose the site visits, saying it is not warranted. Yingling’s attorney Mitch Thompson said that it will further delay the trial, while Gutierrez’s attorney, Sen. Randall Cunliffe, said the visit will be a waste of the court’s time.

Cunliffe said testimony so far has dealt with bags of cement, blocks and wires being brought to Urunao. He said these items are used at "99 percent of homes on island." He asked whether they also should make a site visit to Gef Pago, which also uses similar materials.

"There is a number of sites built out of the same construction idea," Cunliffe said.

The judge said she will make her decision later on the motion.

The first person to take the stand yesterday was Guam Police Department Officer Kenneth Balajadia, who had driven Gutierrez several times to Urunao ranch while construction was taking place at the site. Balajadia was the third witness to testify since the trial started Monday.

Balajadia said Gutierrez sometimes went to Urunao to check on the construction workers and to do some work including planting. Balajadia testified he used a jackhammer to clear some rock so Gutierrez could plant.

"When he would do landscaping, I would help him," Balajadia said.

The officer said he allegedly noticed some government workers there including an electrician from Public Works, former DPW employee Rodrigo "Rudy" Ocampo, who is facing charges in a separate criminal case; and at least two other police officers. He said he noticed one officer allegedly operating heavy equipment and another officer moving "around stuff at the ranch."

Balajadia also testified that he recognized other people there as government workers.

During cross-examination by Gutierrez’s attorney, David Lujan, Balajadia said he did not know if the workers were there on their personal time or during work hours.

Balajadia said there was no running water, mesh wire or mulching machine, and did not see any water pipes or cement that were purchased by the airport. He also said he never heard any of the defendants conspire to use government resources to "cheat" the government and did not stop at the Government House to pick up any construction materials.

Special Assistant Attorney General Frederick Canavor had asked Balajadia whether he was collecting a government salary while he was working at Urunao. Maraman, however, said the question is not evidence.

Former Government House employee Luis Quinata appeared nervous when he took the stand next. Quinata, who is currently a Department of Education aide, said that he did ground maintenance at the Government House under the Gutierrez administration.

Quinata yesterday testified he picked up about 50 bags of cement from an underground area at the airport when he visited the site two times. He said the cement would be stored at the Government House.

Quinata then said he delivered 20 bags of the cement to the Urunao ranch using a DPW truck but the cement would be dropped off "away from the house." He said his supervisor allegedly told him to deliver it to the house he later learned was Gutierrez's property.

He said that there was paperwork when he picked up the cement from the airport, but there was no paperwork when he delivered cement to Urunao.

Lujan asked Quinata only one question during cross examination.

"Do you like Gov. Gutierrez?" Lujan asked.

"Yeah," Quinata replied, looking at the former governor. "You’re still the one."

Parks and Rec employee Joseph Tainatongo was then called to the stand. Tainatongo said he was told by his supervisor to deliver a wood chipper, or mulching machine, to Urunao.

He said the piece of government-owned equipment, which is about 12-feet long, needed to be towed so he used a Parks and Rec truck. When he got to the site, Ocampo directed him on where to place the wood chipper -- about 150 feet from the construction site. Tainatongo said he went back five to six months later to pick up the wood chipper, and placed it back in Parks and Rec’s Tiyan shop.

He said another employee, Antonio Duenas, accompanied him on the trip.

Tainatongo said they were later told to bring the wood chipper back and park it across the street from Gutierrez's ranch. They retrieved it about two weeks later, Tainatongo said.

He said he did all of this during working hours but could not say what the chipper was used for.

During cross-examination, Lujan emphasized that the equipment was not placed on Gutierrez’s property, and then asked Tainatongo whether he knew where the property boundary was. Tainatongo said he did not know.

Duenas also took the stand yesterday and corroborated Tainatongo’s statements, saying he went with Tainatongo to Urunao to pick up the mulching machine.

Department of Administration general accounting supervisor Marianito Bautista Jr. took the stand in the afternoon and said that he checked whether there was a contract with CP Construction -- the company that was building Triangle Park.

Bautista said he could not find a contract within the DOA accounting system for 2001 to 2002. He also said he checked prior and subsequent years and could not find a contract.

Bautista said any project that cost more than $15,000 should have gone through the bid process and should have a purchase order or contract. Otherwise, he said, it should have been flagged for a possible procurement violation.

Lujan asked during cross-examination whether Bautista asked any former or current airport official if there was a contract, to which Bautista said no.

Bautista said it is the responsibility of the autonomous agencies to give the administration department the contract, but added that not every contract is recorded. Bautista also said that since the airport is an autonomous agency, they handle their own accounts.

Police Officers Peter Tydingco, Joseph Leon Guerrero and Peter Pascua also testified yesterday regarding the search warrant they helped execute at Urunao in January following Gutierrez’s initial indictment. The officers testified about what they did during the search, including videotaping certain items at the home ranging from bricks to lights.

Many of the items, however, were not among the 16 items that were listed on the subpoena; Leon Guerrero said when he was cross-examined. He also said he did not know where the items were purchased.

More prosecution witnesses are expected to be called today. The trial is scheduled to continue at 9:00 this morning.

June 25, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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