HAGÅTÑA (THE GUAM DAILY POST) —- A slew of public officials, including two Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration Cabinet members and two mayors, have been indicted in a pair of separate cases being prosecuted by the Guam Government Corruption Division of the Office of the Attorney General.

Department of Public Health and Social Services Director Arthur San Agustin stands accused of aiding in the wrongful issuance of sanitary permits to local public schools that were never inspected. Also indicted was Masatomo “Tom” Nadeau, DPHSS chief environmental health officer.

Likewise, Richard Ybanez, until recently the interim executive manager of the Guam Regional Transit Authority, is alleged to have been unqualified to hold his former position and to have been improperly drawing down a salary. Transit board members and staff have been indicted on charges related to Ybanez’s hiring.

Both DPHSS and the governor’s office had little to say about the allegations on Tuesday.

“We cannot comment on ongoing litigation,” the governor’s spokesperson Krystal Paco-San Agustin told the Post. She did not respond when asked whether the governor’s office would conduct any internal review of the accusations.

DPHSS spokesperson Don Sulat said the agency also declined to comment. He repeated verbatim the statement provided by Paco-San Agustin.

Much of the leadership at GRTA was either unreachable or similarly declined requests for comment from The Guam Daily Post.

Grand jury indictments were handed down in both cases, according to an announcement issued Monday night by the Office of the Attorney General. Assistant Attorney General Gloria Rudolph secured both indictments.

“The Attorney General is by law required to and is committed to enforcing Guam’s laws, … rooting out waste, fraud and abuse,” the OAG stated in the release. “No one can be treated above the law. We encourage all government officials to seek guidance from our office if in doubt.”

A summons has been issued for 26 July in both cases by Superior Court of Guam Judge John Terlaje, according to Attorney General Douglas Moylan.

Sanitary permits for public schools were approved by officials from DPHSS without any legally required inspections, the AG’s office alleged in the release. The decision may have endangered students, staff and teachers.

The lack of inspections for some local schools, which until last Friday were allowed to have their sanitary permits renewed each year despite not complying with sanitary regulations, is a matter of public record.

Post files show that Nadeau told lawmakers during a February hearing over the poor conditions at Guam Department of Education facilities that several schools received ungraded inspections, but “there’s nothing in our laws (or) regulations that compels us or requires an establishment to be inspected prior to receiving the renewal.”

Simon Sanchez High School had maintained a “C” rating at the time, despite having not been inspected since 2016.

Guam law does mandate that DPHSS perform four inspections a year of local schools, Post files show. Nadeau at the time said it was “not a secret” that the requirement could not be met.

When asked Tuesday about the assertion that the law did not require school inspections before the issuance of sanitary permits, Moylan said, “the attorney general’s office has identified the charges and that is what we expect to prove at trial. Whatever anyone else is saying will be subject to the judge and jury to make those type(s) of decisions. We feel that we had sufficient evidence and the law supported those type(s) of charges.”

San Agustin faces five counts of tampering with public records as third-degree felonies, according to the indictment. He is accused of “knowingly, with intent to defraud or injure,” making false entries or alterations to several sanitary permits issued to GDOE schools.

Permits from 2021 and 2022 for George Washington High School and Sanchez High are cited, as well as a 2021 permit for Southern High School.

Nadeau faces a pair of misdemeanor charges for obstructing governmental functions and official misconduct.

Ybanez was charged with theft by deception as a second-degree felony for his time as the interim executive manager of GRTA between April 2022 and May 2023.

“We allege that Richard Ybanez was not qualified to be paid a taxpayer-funded salary for the top management position because he did not have the requisite college degree and that other officials knew and furthered that illegal action,” the release from the AG’s office states.

Ybanez stepped in as head of GRTA in 2022 after former lead Cel Babauta departed due to medical reasons. Updated staffing records weren’t available Tuesday, but Ybanez was pulling down an annual salary of US$61,000 prior to stepping into Babauta’s role. Babauta was making US$88,000 a year before leaving.

Ybanez stepped down from his post when Tyrone Taitano, the new interim executive manager, was appointed in May, but remained with the agency.

Taitano said Tuesday that he could not comment on ongoing litigation. Ybanez could not be reached via the GRTA office, which was closed for the Independence Day holiday.

Guam law mandates that the head of Transit have a bachelor’s degree and 10 years managing a transit organization or equivalent experience.

Records from Ybanez’ 2019 Cabinet appointment as director of the Department of Parks and Recreation show that he attended both Honolulu Community College and the University of Guam in the 1990s, but did not attain a degree. He spent most of his time in the decade prior in sales and marketing positions, and was general manager of the Windward Hills Golf Course for about two years.

Paco-San Agustin of the governor’s office said she would respond “shortly” when presented with Ybanez’ work history just before press time on Tuesday, but did not immediately respond.

GRTA board chair Alejo Sablan and board members Anthony Chargualaf, mayor of Inalåhan, and Kevin Susuico, mayor of Hågat, were each indicted on charges of theft by complicity as second-degree felonies and conspiracy for misapplication of entrusted funds as third-degree felonies.

Jennifer Badar Cruz, identified in the indictment as the “certifying officer” for the transit authority, was charged with theft by deception as a second-degree felony and tampering with public records as a third-degree felony.

Cruz and Sablan could not be reached via the closed GRTA office. Mayor Susuico did not answer calls made to a number listed in Guam Election Commission records.

Mayor Chargualaf said he was unaware of the indictment as of Tuesday morning, and when read the charges by the Post said the indictment “sounds like a joke.”

“What I do know is that (Ybanez) was appointed by the governor and not a selection made by the board,” Chargualaf said, when asked whether Ybanez’s qualifications were ever discussed.

Moylan told the Post there were approvals the board would have participated in during Ybanez’s hiring, and that they were alleged to have “specifically (known) that he was not qualified.”

Education chair Senator Chris Barnett, who has criticised the previous lack of sanitary inspections at schools, called the indictments a reflection of the administration’s “failure to deliver basic services and set the standards for our island.”

That failure was hurting people, he said.

“I questioned why our schools were given sanitary permits that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. The Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration never explained how or why they allowed this to happen, and now they’ll have to answer for it in court,” he said.

Barnett said he would pray for those indicted and their families, and was glad the AG was working to hold the administration accountable.

Sen. Will Parkinson, oversight chair for the transit authority, was more reserved on the accusations.

“My initial comment is there’s a presumption of innocence and I look forward to seeing the judicial process play out,” Parkinson said….PACNEWS

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