By Jacob Nakamura
(Tumon, Guam) Ever see someone get run over by a bus, then get up, throw the bus driver out, and run him over twice? That's what happened to Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association president Mary Rhodes tonight, when she raced out of a meeting to join a legislative oversight hearing about the illegal procurement of hotels as quarantine and isolation facilities.
Ms. Rhodes was not part of the original panel of officials scheduled to testify before the committee. But she did, after governor's legal counsel and son in law Haig Huynh drove a bus over her (figuratively) and told senators under oath that it was Ms. Rhodes who handled the procurement of hotels, not him.
GHRA plays a vital role in every emergency activation by the government of Guam. For decades, the non-profit organization has been called to assist GovGuam, the federal government, the military, and the private sector to deal with pre-disaster, disaster, and disaster recovery efforts.
Asked whether Mr. Huynh's statement that GHRA and she led the procurement of the hotels, Ms. Rhodes stated:
"We only reached out to the hotels to seek their participation. We held the first meeting with Days Inn and Wyndham at Guam Homeland Security. The meeting with Days Inn and Wyndham was actually at the Guam Homeland Security Advisor Tim Aguon's office with Haig [Huynh]. I only shared point of contact info for Hotel Santa Fe and PacStar. I was never present in a meeting with Hotel Santa Fe or PacStar. I was only in the first meeting with Days Inn and Wyndham."
Ms. Rhodes, who was the least prepared for the oversight hearing, provided the most detail among the panelists when asked questions. She provided senators with perspective about GHRA's role in the Coronavirus response and the need for quarantine facilities going back to January this year.
"I was at GHS the first two weeks coordinating the meetings with key stakeholders (hotels, airlines, airport, travel agents) regarding the executive order for the mandatory quarantine. I also worked the middle of the night shifts for the incoming flights for quarantine in hotels for both Manila and non-Manila travelers. There are records of those sign ins at GHS/OCD. Those were the extent of my services with the local government during weeks in March because starting March 30th, I moved over to the USS Roosevelt."
Ms. Rhodes also chimed in, when Mr. Huynh and his lurking assistant, Carlo Branch were answering questions about the procurement of the hotels.
She clarified that the four hotels illegally procured - Santa Fe, Days Inn, Wyndham Gardens, and Pacific Star - were not the only hotels looked at by the government of Guam, despite the sole source procurement request made on the record by Mr. Huynh in emails. As a matter of fact, she told senators, several government agencies were involved in the walk through of Leo Palace Resort, Fiesta Resort Guam, Outrigger Resort Guam, and the Hilton Guam Resort. and Spa.
"There were a lot of details that went into the quarantine facilities to stand them up," Ms. Rhodes said. "It shouldn’t only focus on the hotel contract. There were a lot of services that were involved and those agencies were all present."
Interrupting Mr. Huynh, she said to senators, "So the question might be, 'How did procurement get done without any of these ESFs involved?'"
ESFs are stations of agencies, the military, the federal government, and private sector organizations within the emergency operations center that direct resources by command of the EOC.
"How did they procure the whole thing?" she asked. "How did all those services get funded and approved at those hotels without all those other parts involved? I can’t speak to why Pacific Star was handled differently from Days Inn, Wyndham and Hotel Santa Fe which had DPHSS, GPD, Guam National Guard and other agencies involved to operate the front of the house operations and perimeter."
Ms. Rhodes said the hotels that ended up agreeing to provide services to the government of Guam now are in a precarious position with the botched procurement.
"There are hoteliers that are being painted in a bad light because of all this," she said. "It is the responsibility of the government to follow the procurement rules. I do know there are laws in place that say you need to have funding in place before you enter into a contract."
As to Mr. Huynh's testimony that Ms. Rhodes and GHRA handled the procurement and that he did not:
"Bottom line though, I was not involved in the contracts for any of these hotels. That was handled by the government."