Governor Lou Leon Guerrero is defending her administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic against some suggestions of impropriety.
During a wide-ranging news conference Tuesday afternoon, she said the actions taken have been vetted by her legal team and the Federal Emergency Management Agency and what was done was in accordance with the law.
When the pandemic struck Guam in mid-March, the veneer of normal life quickly disappeared and a current curtain of emergency orders and restrictions fell down around us. Schools and businesses closed. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders went into effect. A 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers was imposed … and someplace had to be found to put those passengers in quarantine.
With procurement rules and regulations suspended under the health emergency declared by the governor, contracts were quickly signed for a number of services, including lease agreements The Wyndham Garden, the Days Inn, the Hotel Santa Fe for a time, and the Pacific Star for use as quarantine facilities.
Questions have been raised about those agreements. The Governor on Tuesday said she stands by the actions taken by her legal team.
“The way that we handled this procurement and the way that we used out emergency powers are within the law as stated. I truly fully believe that the legal counsel and the legal team acted appropriately. They acted within the bounds of the law and they acted quickly to help in helping the community contain this virus,” the governor said.
Hotel staffers were not called back to provide services during the quarantine period, said the governor. GovGuam employees did that and senior staffers in her administration were tasked to stay overnight at some of the hotels to supervise and respond to the needs of those in quarantine at the PacStar including Alice Taijeron and Rebecca Respicio, two cabinet directors of the administration.
“We decided that someone of authority should be there to monitor and to supervise and to meet the needs of these people. So, it was authorized for two individuals to be able to stay overnight and to be able to provide the services to our individuals,” the governor said.
The governor defended the use of public health director Linda DeNorcey’s electronic signature which, in one case, the governor acknowledged that DeNorcey did not recall authorizing.
“Now she did say to me that she does not remember and she does not recall. I can agree that she does not recall and does not remember it. I’m maintaining that it went through our protocol, I’m maintaining that it went through the process that we normally do and it is an acceptable way of doing business,” Leon Guerrero said.
The Governor and her budget director, Lester Carlson, also defended her plan for spending the $118 million in federal funds provided under the CARES Act
“It’s my responsibility to primarily put together the spending plan and make sure that it’s consistent with the guidelines. I had a painstaking review with my staff and all the agencies asking for input and now the governor’s ready to pull the trigger and make these funds available,” Carlson said.
The governor said: “I think it has been too long. But it’s not because of my control. It is first federal control. And also, we did not get the $117 million until a week ago or two weeks ago. And we could not use this money until we got the guidance and the advisory guidance on how we are to spend it.”