GUAM SENATOR’S PRIVATE QUERIES QUESTIONED

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GUAM SENATOR’S PRIVATE QUERIES QUESTIONED

By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 1) - The chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities several years ago expressed concerns that Senator Jesse Lujan's office was being used to further Lujan's private business interests as a land developer with Cyfred Ltd.

In April 2003, Lujan's then chief of staff Todd Baum, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the commission on Lujan's legislative letterhead, asking for information about a commission meeting that happened a few days earlier. Baum worked for Lujan during the Republican senator's first term in office and was paid US$42,933 per year, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The commission during its April 22, 2003, meeting discussed water rate increases and received status reports from different Guam Waterworks Authority divisions. Among other things, it was reported that the water agency was "aggressively pursuing" illegal connections. It had found 25 illegal connections and was waiting for police reports, board minutes state.

The water agency in May 2003 cut water service to several residents in Cyfred's Gill Baza subdivision, saying they were illegally connected to the water system.

Baum, in his April 24, 2003, letter, asked for information about the April 22 meeting and also asked whether the commission authorized water agency General Manager David Craddick to "disclose on a public radio broadcast that a subdivision developed by Cyfred Ltd., had an illegal water hookup."

Lujan is Cyfred's vice president and has used his office to lobby for government-paid road maintenance in and around Cyfred's Gill Baza subdivision -- roads that the government has said are the developer's responsibility. Those roads now will be paved and maintained by taxpayers as part of the fiscal 2006 budget bill, which Lujan and 10 other senators approved.

Utilities Commission Chairman Simon Sanchez responded to Baum's request in a letter on April 29, 2003, stating there are no documents authorizing Craddick to discuss an illegal water hookup by Cyfred.

Sanchez also noted a possible conflict in Baum's request.

"I understand that Senator Lujan has an ownership interest in Cyfred so that this (information) request seems to be made regarding his personal business. Yet, I note that your request was written on Senator Lujan's letterhead," Sanchez wrote. "Presumably, you wrote it while serving on his staff. And, the letter was also apparently faxed on Senator Lujan's fax machine. It appears to me that public funds are being expended by the senator's office in order to promote the senator's personal, private interests."

Baum, a former officer of Cyfred, yesterday said he had first met Lujan when Baum was employed with Cyfred. He explained that when he took the position with the senator's office, he no longer was employed by Cyfred.

Baum said he didn't do any Cyfred business while working for the senator.

He said the company handled Cyfred-specific issues, while issues related to constituent concerns were handled by Lujan's legislative office.

"I was careful to make sure that while I was there at least, that things I didn't think should be handled at (Lujan's) office were handled at (Cyfred's) office, with their people and their attorneys," Baum said. "If it was something that had importance to the people of Guam, on our side, then we dealt with that -- that's specifically when we had constituent requests."

Baum said he does not remember writing that specific letter to the commission, but said he could have written it.

"We were asking a lot of questions about a lot of things and didn't get a lot of answers," he said.

Lujan did not return two calls to his office during the past couple of days.

Craddick, who was hired by the utilities commission in January 2003, has rejected Cyfred's efforts to get the water agency to use its resources to install sewer lines in the company's troubled Gill Baza subdivision. Craddick has refused to follow an October 2002 agreement between Cyfred and former water agency General Manager Gil Shinohara that required the agency to install the subdivision's sewer system.

Lujan last week said the agreement is valid, despite Craddick's position. "Who nullified the contract? The contract is still good," Lujan said.

February 2, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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