GUAM ATTORNEY GENERAL LOSES OFFICE, PARKING

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By Theresa Merto

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 5) - The Guam Attorney General's Office is trying to fight eviction from its office building while overcoming the loss of its parking spaces.

Deputy Attorney General Basil O'Mallan said he "bummed a ride" from a friend to work yesterday morning and they were fortunate enough to get a parking spot near the law library.

But co-workers weren't so lucky and had to seek parking in other lots after the court stripped the attorney general's office of its 23 parking spots yesterday morning in the latest development in the office's eviction from the Guam Judicial Center.

"The whole situation of taking our assigned court parking spaces is very petty," said O'Mallan, who has been working at the attorney general's office for three years and heads the civil division. "They just came in here and started piecemealing and changing what has been set in stone for many, many years."

On Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Douglas Moylan received a letter from court administrator Perry C. Taitano that said parking slots will no longer be designated to the attorney general's office. Taitano cited a need for more public parking. Taitano also revoked Moylan's access to the building's side entrance, "in the interest of security."

O'Mallan said it is getting difficult not to believe that this eviction is personal.

"Granted, some people may not like the way the attorney general does business. But, when you start doing things to the detriment of the attorney general's office, that's to the detriment of the people of Guam, not just the attorney general himself," O'Mallan said. "This is absurd, we are all one government. We all serve the same person."

Moylan, who spent much of yesterday trying to resolve this issue, said that his office plans to take its concerns before a judge as early as this week.

"They are exposing themselves to court action, and we may be going into court in the next few days to ask Judge (Michael) Bordallo to enforce our tenancy," Moylan said, referring to the Judicial Council.

The Judicial Council sued the AG's office in July, asking the Superior Court of Guam to force it out, Pacific Daily News files state. On December 30, Bordallo granted the Judicial Council's motion for summary judgment and ordered that a writ of possession be issued regarding the premises occupied by the attorney general's office. A copy of an unsigned final judgment was given to Moylan on Tuesday that states the AG's office has to vacate the premises by 5 p.m. Feb. 28.

"Given the order that was issued by Judge Bordallo the other day, we noted that their lease is terminated and they are not entitled to be treated any different from any other," said Dan Tydingco, the Judiciary of Guam director of policy, planning and community relations.

Tydingco said the parking slots were taken back, "in response to the public clamoring and requesting for additional space."

Tydingco said 23 parking slots were taken from the attorney general's office. Of those slots, 21 have been designated for public use. He said the two final slots, which are located in the "official vehicle" parking lot, will be used for official vehicles. Tydingco added that about four to five months ago, more than two dozens parking stalls were taken away from court personnel and designated for the public.

"When we sat down with the Public Defender's Office and the Department of Law, notifying them of the back rent issue and the court's obligation to collect rent under the Federal Farmer's Home loan agreement, we noted to them that we had to collect rent," Tydingco said.

He said collecting the rent money is required under public law and under provisions of a loan taken out to construct the judicial building. The AG's office owes $3.6 million in back rent, Pacific Daily News files state.

While the AG's office "fought and resisted" paying rent, the Public Defender's Office reached an agreement with the court and has begun paying rent, Tydingco said. Tydingco did not immediately know how much rent the Public Defender's Office is paying.

Court employees, who are occupying office space in other Hagåtña buildings, will be moved back to the judicial center space that the AG's office is slated to move out of. The court employees include the ethics prosecutor, the Office of the Public Guardian, the child support division and the client services division.

This move is expected to save the court $300,000 a year, he said.

"We won't have to make requests for money for outside office leases," Tydingco said.

In regard to the side access, Tydingco said the court officials "are not providing any special access to the Department of Law" and that only court marshals and the court administrator have access to that door.

When asked whether the action regarding the parking slots, security access and eviction is personal, Tydingco said, "No. There is no veracity to that."

Senator Ray Tenorio, R-Yigo, who has oversight over the attorney general's office, said he is trying to work on a "diplomatic solution" with the AG's office and judiciary, in order to "facilitate dialogue."

"We want to ensure the attorney general's office, especially the prosecution, and the needs of the people of Guam are not trumped by the legal issues between the judiciary and the attorney general," Tenorio said.

Moylan added, "Everything is on the table right now, and we are looking for whatever solution that is going to benefit the people. We have to go in with no preconceptions."

When asked whether there will be any rent money available for the AG's office if it has to move, Tenorio said, "I don't know currently if there is any money in the till. We've asserted that the budget for this fiscal year ... may not be something we can realize."

"I will say this. If the attorney general's office is forced to move from its current location because the Legislature had not appropriated money for rent, then clearly we are going to have to do that," Tenorio said. "We can't occupy another building without paying for rent and we don't have any government buildings, that I know of that we can move them into."

Tenorio added that he believes the AG's office should keep its parking slots and Moylan should have access to the building's side door, at least until February 28.

"I don't see how the needs of the attorney general has diminished, so long as they are occupying the same building," Tenorio said. "They still need to have parking. They still need to be able to have access and security."

Meanwhile, the attorney general's office continues to work on an average of 50 to 100 court hearings a day despite not knowing what will happen next, O'Mallan said.

"Morale is real low in the office, but we are still working and making sure we get our job done. But it is very distracting. Either leave us alone, leave us here, or give us money to move," O'Mallan said.

"Employees come up to me all the time asking, 'What's gonna happen?' We have no clue when we leave here what they are going to do overnight."

He said, ultimately, it is the taxpayers that will have to pick up the tab if the AG's office is forced to move.

"Why are we going to incur that expense?" O'Mallan said. "It is unnecessary."

January 6, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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