By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) The director of public health, Linda DeNorcey, told senators she does not remember if she gave governor's legal counsel and son in law Haig Huynh authorization to use her signature on designation letters to quarantine hotels dated March 18, 2020.
"As to the call, I do not recall the call," Ms. DeNorcey told senators in response to Sen. Jim Moylan's question on whether she made the authorization over the phone.
The so-called phone authorization is referenced in an April 1, 2020 email from Governor's Office administrative services officer June Borja within Mr. Huynh's legal counsel office. In the email to her co-worker, Laurie Tumaneng, Ms. Borja wrote:
"Per Sophia's instructions, kindly requesting if you can insert Linda DeNorcey's digital signature on the attached four (4) letters please, and send back to me to send out? We have obtained Ms. DeNorcey's approval to use her digital signature on the attached letters."
Ms. Tumaneng replied to the email 23 minutes later, at 5:30 p.m. on April 1 with four letters attached, each bearing a signature block with what appears to be Ms. DeNorcey's signatures. The letters were copied to Mr. Huynh and his assistant legal counsel, Sophia Diaz.
The original documents were signed only by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on March 18. And that's where the problem starts.
The documents, which are nearly-identical letters, each to the Pacific Star Hotel, the Hotel Santa Fe, the Wyndham Garden hotel, and the Days Inn hotel, are the designation papers identifying and activating those named hotels "to house persons for whom isolation or quarantine is indicated." According to Section 4.4 of the Guam Pandemic Influenza Plan, which are the rules promulgated under the authority of Chapter 3 of the island's health code, those documents were not supposed to be issued by the governor, but by the public health authority. That authority is the director of public health, Ms. DeNorcey.
The absence of Ms. DeNorcey's signature on the March 18 designation letters needed to be remedied by her signature in order for the procurement record for those hotels to be complete (this is not considering all the other areas of compliance missing from the procurement record on these hotels).
The controversy continued when, last week KUAM's Chris Barnett asked Ms. DeNorcey whether she authorized the use of her signature on those letters and she responded, "No, absolutely not." Mr. Barnett followed up his question by asking whether, if presented with those letters that day, she would sign those documents. "No," she replied.
During Friday's oversight hearing conducted by Sen. Therese Terlaje, Ms. Terlaje asked Ms. DeNorcey about the issue of the letters. Ms. DeNorcey evaded the matter of the forgery, and instead said she was not responsible for the procurement of these facilities as isolation and quarantine sites.
The law, however, says otherwise.
The Emergency Health Powers Act specifically states that Ms. DeNorcey, in this crisis, is the only person with the power to "procure... facilities as may be reasonable and necessary to respond to the public health emergency, with the right to take immediate possession thereof."
On top of Ms. DeNorcey's testimony to senators that she did not procure the hotels is a paper trail of admissions from Mr. Huynh showing he procured the hotels.
On March 21 at 2:13 p.m., Mr. Huynh wrote to Civil Defense administrator Charles Esteves, telling him: "I am handing over the management of some services we have contracted. They are active, but also require COS signature to fully document. Below is a list of items that I have procured and I am writing for fully executed documents to catch up... I have acted on the direction of the governor... Aside from gathering the completed contracts, I will leave the management of these services to you."
On March 25 at 1:15 p.m., Mr. Huynh wrote to Mr. Esteves, telling him: "I have forwarded all the unsigned contracts to you. The AG is asking that I complete a sole source procurement record prior to him signing off. I am awaiting some docs from GHRA to help me complete it. In the meantime, please know that these are agreements and they should generally be consistent with all of the lodgings." Mr. Huynh went on to list the hotels, the number of days he negotiated the use of each hotel, the flat rate of $100 per room per day, and meals, housecleaning, and decontamination provisions.
On March 25 at 4:52 p.m., Mr. Huynh wrote to budget director Lester Carlson, telling him: "[W]e negotiated decontamination per CDC guidelines... if we end up hiring someone to just clean... that is within the scope of contract. So long as they aren't doing the move out."