GHURA: San Nicolas, 2 senators owe repayments for conflict of interest

Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (PNC file photo)

The Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA) has served three elected Guam officials with legal documents for repayment in what the housing agency says are historical conflicts.

GHURA is pursuing thousands of dollars in repayments after the Attorney General’s office issued a letter recently stating over-payments must be paid back to HUD.

AG letter HUD demand for GHURA repayment

Ray Topasna, GHURA director, told PNC News: “Although my preference, with the new administration, is to just move forward, just terminate whatever conflicts and move the agency in a forward direction…Unfortunately, that AG opinion says someone’s got to pay it back. Some people will cry foul because it’s an election year but there’s no political agenda.”

He added: “Somebody’s got to pay it back. So either GHURA pays it back to the Feds or the landlord pays it back, or the elected official pays it back…somebody’s got to pay it back.”

The AG’s letter says GHURA must pay the money back but that they can pursue the payments from the landlord(s) in contract with the agency.

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Topasna says the conflicts pre-date the current administration’s takeover in 2019 and relate to Section 8 housing subsidies.

“And unfortunately, in the previous administration, there were public officials that failed to disclose that they have a conflict. And when I say conflict [I mean], if you’re an elected official, you cannot be a landlord for GHURA nor can you have an immediate family member that’s a landlord.”

Because GHURA is 100% federally funded, Topasna says they have strict mandates and regulations to comply with, including for any elected official to disclose if they, or an immediate relative, is a landlord for the housing agency.

“Yes, we do have elected officials that failed to disclose it, and whoever the landlord was whether it be an immediate family member or themselves, failed to disclose it as well,” Topasna said.

He said he couldn’t disclose who the two Guam Legislature-elected officials are, as their lawyers had not yet reponded and he, “did not want them to find out through the media.”

Topasna says the third official in question is Congressman Michael San Nicolas.

The Congressman received his legal documents from GHURA’s attorney last week and Topasna says the delegate’s lawyer has already responded.

One repayment amount in San Nicolas’ case involved his father being a landlord for GHURA while the delegate was still a senator. There’s a second conflict, however, that arose and GHURA says it’s pursuing the over-payment in that case as well.

As related to the Congressman’s matter, Topasna says they’re going after approximately $84,000 in one case and $79,000 in repayments for the second.

The remaining two officials will have also been served with legal documents, although there has been no formal response from their lawyers, according to Topasna.

In relation to the first unnamed elected official, GHURA is looking for a pay-back of a whopping $98,000, and $15,000 for the second unnamed elected official.

“The instructions I have between me and my board is to pursue collections of these payouts by the Housing Authority in the previous administration,” Topasna said.

A request for comment from Congressman San Nicolas on the matter has gone unanswered.