A.G. alleges Governor’s office involvement with award of Low Income Housing Tax Credits

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Guam – The Attorney General’s office is accusing former GHURA board members of holding illegal secret meetings to help facilitate the award of $4.1 million in federal tax credits in 2011. The A.G’s office also alleges some involvement on the part of the Governor’s office.

According to Chief Prosecutor Phil Tydingco’s declaration which accompanied the charges of conspiracy and open government law violations filed against former GHURA board members and the current executive director, illegal secret meetings were held to facilitate the award of $4.1 million in federal low-income housing tax credits.

The declaration discusses how GHURA put together an evaluation committee to rank the five bidders who applied for these tax credits. Talo Isla village was the top ranked bidder followed by Ironwood Highlands Senior Housing, Iron Lada Senior Village, Great Homes LLC and Tumon Heights Tower. The evaluation committee then recommended that the 2010 and 2011 tax credits be awarded to Talo Isla Village.

However, according to the A.G.’s office then Executive Director Marcel Camacho disqualified the top three applicants at a special board meeting but without discussing the reason for the disqualification. Camacho later told investigators that it was because of site control issues. Camacho then asked for and received permission to negotiate with the bottom two ranked bidders namely Great Homes LLC which was owned by the Catholic Social Services and the Calvo Finance Corporation and Tumon Heights Tower or Tower 70 which was owned by Robert Salas and Keith Farrel.

The declaration further alleges that Camacho decided to drop Great Homes after they refused to drop their price per unit. During a private meeting Camacho told Chairman David Sablan, Vice-Chair Rick Calvo and legal counsel Mark Smith that Great Homes’ per unit prices was $560 thousand per unit and Tower 70’s was $300 thousand per unit.

According to the A.G.’s office Camacho ultimately decided to disqualify Great Homes. Camacho told investigators that he was then allegedly summoned to the Governor’s office to meet with the Governor’s chief of staff, Frank Arriola. Camacho told investigators that when he arrived he “discovered that several of the individuals associated with Great Homes were present and accused him of purposely attempting to remove them from the bidding process so that Camacho’s father could get it; Camacho asserted that although his father does build houses, he had no affiliation with the low-income housing project.”

The declaration goes on to explain how ultimately Chairman Sablan and the board overrode Camacho’s decision and awarded the tax credits to both Great Homes and Tower 70.