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Outgoing leader of agency denies charges

By Brett Kelman

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 7, 2011) – If the damage done at the Guam State Clearinghouse isn't illegal, it should be, according to the island's new lieutenant governor.

While his office was still reeling from the recent discovery that federal grant records kept at the clearinghouse office appeared to be tampered with, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio yesterday said computers at the office were blanked or locked with unknown passwords and paper records are in indecipherable disarray.

Tenorio said there appeared to be a deliberate effort to undermine the incoming Guam State Clearinghouse, which could disrupt efforts to spend grant money or apply for more grant money.

"I don't know if any section of law applies to this. We are not dealing with somebody stealing a pen. We are talking about something where you destroy information or make information inaccessible to a government entity," Tenorio said. "The whole idea about a transition of government is there is no interruption in service or process so the people of Guam are not penalized or otherwise harmed."

Tenorio added later: "It seems to me, if the laws are not currently on the books that allows us to hold a person accountable for sabotaging any agency or any bureau of a government office, which has direct repercussions on the people of Guam, then we need to put a law on the books that does."

Tenorio said he didn't have any evidence that the clearinghouse records had been tampered with to hide some criminal act. The situation appears to be an deliberate effort to undermine the clearinghouse's progress, not a cover-up, he said.

Roland Villaverde, who led the clearinghouse as recently as last week, said yesterday morning that the situation with the office was a simple miscommunication that had been blown out of proportion.

Villaverde said there were no new operating systems installed on clearinghouse computers, and none were formatted. He didn't know why the new administration would say otherwise.

"There was no intention or malice to sabotage the clearinghouse," Villaverde said. "In fact, we've been in communication ... with Lt. Gov. Tenorio. I will continue to provide my assistance to assuring that the clearing house moves forward in regards to what is needed to be done."

Even if there was something wrong with the computers, Villaverde said the records needed by the new administration were kept in filing cabinets at Adelup and on the office website.

In a letter to Tenorio, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz also questioned why the new administration was so concerned with the clearinghouse computers when the grant records were also kept at the Department of Administration office and on the clearinghouse website.

On Wednesday, new clearinghouse Administrator Eric Palacios told the Pacific Daily News that it appeared the computers had been "tampered with" and millions of dollars of funding could be in jeopardy.

"This media controversy is distracting and I hope the clearinghouse staff you have selected are well experienced with grants administration," Cruz wrote. Had the website also been shut down, Cruz would have felt the administration's response was appropriate.

But neither the website nor Administration Department have a full record of the grant information that should be stored on the clearinghouse computers, Palacios said. Pending grant applications, or grant applications that have been filed since April, might not be included in either, he said.

This data should be on three "master" computers, each of which would have included a full listing of all clearinghouse files. If just one was fully accessible, the new clearinghouse staff would have all the information they need, he said.

"They contained everything that the clearinghouse would need. Records -- everything," Palacios said. "(With just one,) we'd be all right. But they were wiped out, and he still has the one laptop."

Although Villaverde left the clearinghouse last week, he had not returned his government-issued laptop as of yesterday morning.

When questioned about the laptop yesterday morning, Villaverde said he had "transparently" assured Palacios that he still had the laptop and that it would be returned by midday. He didn't explain why he kept it beyond last week.

Villaverde arrived at Adelup to return the government laptop at about noon yesterday, while Tenorio and Palacios were being interviewed by the Pacific Daily News. Palacios excused himself from the interview to retrieve the laptop.

"I'm going to take (a computer specialist) with me so he can immediately take possession and do his forensics exam," Palacios told Tenorio as he left the interview.

At the clearinghouse office, Adelup staff flanked Villaverde as he dropped off his laptop and a personal external hard drive that contained grant data. Palacios said he believed computer specialists had pulled just about all the data they could out of the other clearinghouse computers, but the laptop and hard drive could provide more.

Staff were still reviewing the files on the laptop as of 5 p.m., Palacios said.

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