GUAM AGENCY WANTS CLOSED HEARING ON LANDFILL

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 26) – The Guam governor's office and the attorney general's office are sending mixed messages about whether the public should be allowed to attend meetings of the new commission that will work on closing the Ordot dump and opening a new landfill.

[PIR editor’s note: Ordot is located in the central part of the island of Guam southeast of Hagatna, the capital. According to PIR files, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined Guam Department of Public Works US$2,000 in February for missing a deadline to submit plans and a permit application for a new municipal solid waste landfill (See story).]

Acting Gov. Michael Cruz on Monday created a "Solid Waste Law Revision Commission" to develop government policies for closing the dump and opening a replacement landfill, but the attorney general's office said commission meetings should be closed to the public.

"Meetings of the review commission should be closed to the public because the commission's members need to be able to speak candidly", the attorney general's office stated in documents filed Monday in the District Court of Guam.

"GovGuam believes that much more will be accomplished in non-public meetings," states the brief filed by Deputy Attorney General Patrick Mason.

Mason yesterday said he discussed the issue with his clients, the governor's office and the Department of Public Works, before filing his documents with the court.

"I expressed my client's wishes in my pleading," Mason said.

Mason filed the government's objections to the report and recommendations issued earlier this month by federal Magistrate Judge Joaquin Manibusan. The judge recommended that the government transform its solid waste division into a public corporation and form a law review commission to rewrite Guam laws so the dump closure and landfill construction can happen.

Cruz decided to adopt the judge's recommendation for a review commission, even though the court has not yet decided the issue.

Although the attorney general's office represents the government in the dump-related lawsuit, the commission's meetings will be open to the public, despite what the attorney general's office told the court, according to the governor's office.

The attorney general's office filed its objections with the court before Cruz signed the executive order to create the commission, according to the governor's office, and the executive order does not close the commission's meetings to the public.

"As always, the governor will follow the open government law which provides all guidelines for what government meetings must be conducted in public," the governor's office stated in a written statement.

Objections

The dump-closure issue is in court after federal attorneys complained that GovGuam is not meeting court-ordered deadlines from 2003 to close the dump and open a new landfill. The dump is supposed to be closed later this year, but GovGuam has asked to extend the deadline to December 2011.

The attorney general's office also objected to some of Manibusan's other recommendations, including his recommendation to immediately turn the solid waste division into a public corporation.

Transforming the solid waste division into a public corporation would take too long, with uncertain results, the Guam attorney general's office argued, adding that a transition should be phased in.

The attorney general's office proposed allowing the solid waste division, in its present form, to continue the work it already has started, arguing that the division could not survive without General Fund subsidies.

The attorney general's office noted that the solid waste division already is working on a request for bidders to take over residential trash collection. The invitation for bids could be ready by July 30, the attorney general's office told the court.

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