Gumataotao Warns DOE’s Lack of Staff Lawyer Spells Trouble Ahead

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Guam – Guam’s Department of Education could face serious problems down the road if they don’t replace veteran Attorney Fred Nishihara, that’s what former school board Attorney Frank Gumataotao says. Nishihara recently left GDOE to work for the Office of the Attorney, now there’s only one attorney to over see the largest GovGuam Agency.

Gumataotao was the Attorney the School board for over 4 years says,  Fred has institutional memory that goes back maybe twenty years and no one knows DOE better in terms of the legal needs for the agency. For a number of years the Department of Education has been operating with only one in house attorney and that was Fred Nishihara.  According to Gumataotao, DOE had an open listing for a lawyer for many years, but no one to applied for the job. Gumataotao says the work load became very heavy for Nishihara that the agency finally hired Attorney Laura Mooney to help him.  But Nishihara decided to leave DOE to work for the Office of the Attorney General.

Gumataotao believes this is in part because the attorney general needs to meet the requirements that the legislature set forth that says the office of the Attorney General has to sign off on all contracts for procurement that are over $500,000.

Gumataotao says with Nishihara gone, DOE is now short.

Gumataotao says he understands that Nishihara has to take care of himself first. But to leave the agency without the coverage they will need is going to cause serious problems with the agency. I’m not sure what the agency is going to do at this point . Also my contract is up because by law the board no longer has the authority to hire its own lawyer. And my contract was up at the end of September.

According to DOE Superintendent  Dr. Nerissa Underwood, there are 4 or 5 applicants for the vacant attorney position. Gumataotao says whether those people are suitable for that job remains to be seen. He says its a tough job because its the biggest agency in the Government.Without someone that has Nishihara’s background it will be hard for someone to just walk in and start working. Gumataotao believes Mooney is a great attorney, but more than one attorney will be needed for DOE.