Guam – Former Port General Manager Mary Torres has sent a second letter to Attorney General Lenny Rapadas again questioning what she believes to be illegal payments by the Port of Guam to its law firm, Phillips and Bordallo.
Torres has argued that the Port has exceeded the cap of $499,999 on legal fees. Attorney Mike Phillips rejects the allegations and maintains that the cap has not been exceeded.
The key issue in dispute is the period of time to which that cap applies. Phillips told PNC News Friday that his firm has only entered into 1 year contracts with the Port. The first year term was from May 2011 to April 2012. The second, from May 2012 to April 2013. Phillips and Bordallo is now in its third 1 year contract with the Port, he said. Torres has maintained that the cap covered the entire contractual period including the annual renewals up to 4 years.
In this second letter, Torres focuses on an amendment to the legal services agreement effective April 4th of this year which lifted the cap.
The former Port GM asserts that “it is indisputable that the Port paid Phillips in excess of $698,000” which is the total billing from May 2011 through December 2012. She points out that at last Friday’s Board meeting, Port management acknowledged that as of January the cap had been reached.
The Port Board agreed to with-hold payment on the final 3 months of billings covering January, February and March, until the AG provides guidance on whether or not the excess should be paid. [ Although the Port has not yet receive the full billing for those 3 months, Attorney Phillips has estimated that it would be in the neighborhood of $150-thousand, $50-thousand for each month.]
“It appears,” writes Torres, that Port Management wants “you to approve a new amendment authorizing payments to Phillips which would be retroactive and for
services already performed.” Torres also accuses Phillips of over billing.
She calls on the AG to “first appropriately account for its past billings … before you even entertain a request to authorize additional payments for services already performed.”
In her earlier letter, Torres points specifically to Section 3.7 of the legal services’ agreement with Phillips which she says states that “[t]he total of the compensation, costs and expenses earned, incurred or paid under this Agreement shall not exceed $499,999 [and] If the amount earned, incurred or paid under the agreement reaches $499,999, then a new contract shall be procured before additional work is performed.”
In the first letter, Torres called on the Attorney General to recover whatever funds were paid in excess of the cap and “obtain judgements and hold personally responsible those individuals who disbursed government funds to Phillips and Bordallo without proper authority, illegally and contrary to law.”