Ex-senator calls land documents "bogus"
By Gaynor Dumat-Ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
March 12, 2016
|The Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Yona.|
A former part-time judge, who’s also a former senator, wants accountability from a public keeper of certificates of title of all land parcels on the island.
Robert Klitzkie, a former part-time Superior Court judge and a two-time senator, is calling out the office of the Registrar of Titles, under the Department of Land Management, to be accountable and transparent. The integrity of the office is in doubt, Klitzkie said, following what he called the “erroneous” information on certificates of title for four land parcels and buildings that once were valued at tens of millions of dollars.
The former Accion Hotel properties stand at the center of a dispute within Guam’s Catholic Church community. Part of the disagreement between the church leadership and the Concerned Catholics of Guam is whether the prime real estate still is under the control of the Archdiocese of Agana.
Certificates of title for the four parcels, which the church leadership released to the public in late November, are “bogus,” Klitzkie said. The certificates omit the required disclosure of another document called declaration of deed of restriction, Klitzkie contends.
Archbishop Anthony Apuron’s signature on the declaration of deed of restriction dedicates “perpetual use” of the prime real estate to a nonprofit outside of archdiocesan control, according to a legal opinion issued in May last year for Concerned Catholics.
The omission of the crucial information, Klizkie said, can be compared to a homebuyer who shows a certificate of title that fails to disclose that the home still is subject to a bank’s lien.
Klitzkie said he’s raising the issue as a community advocate and not as a representative of Concerned Catholics. He has sent several letters to Land Management between December last year and as recently as March 7, for the error to be corrected. The failure to correct the error, Klitzkie wrote, “is not only inexcusable; it’s unlawful.”
The certificates of title were issued even when, according to Klitzkie, the office knew the crucial document had been omitted.
Land Management Director Michael Borja was unavailable for comment when reached by phone and email recently. Borja did write to Klitzkie on Jan. 20, acknowledging that information on the certificates of title “had been entered in error.” Borja wrote that he has consulted with Land Management’s legal counsel and with Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson “regarding a remedy.”
The Registrar of Titles has prepared a document and forwarded the document to the AG’s office that would correct the error, Borja wrote.
Andrew Santos, deputy registrar of titles, tried to fix the error by simply changing the Registrar of Title’s records, without court approval, according to documents Klitzkie found by poring through Land Management records.
Guam law requires the correction has to be filed in court to be valid, Klitzkie said.
The document that corrects the error would have to be filed as a petition in the Superior Court of Guam, Borja also acknowledged, in his Jan. 20 letter to Klitzkie.
Initially, Klitzkie, said, he was encouraged by Borja’s letter.
However, after more than two months passed and no petition was filed in court to correct the error, Klitzkie sent another letter on March 7 to Land Management. He sent his letter via registered mail because the Registrar of Titles has stopped responding to his recent emails and letters, he said.
Public confidence in the Registrar of Titles and the integrity of that office are at stake, Klitzkie said.
“Prompt public correction of the certificates, rather than a dilatory approach, is essential to avoid the public perception that crucial matters, (such as) the creation and publication of bogus certificates of title, is tolerated,” Klitzkie wrote to Borja in February.
The four land parcels and the oceanfront building that are on the property are part of the former Accion Hotel, which was once valued at $40 million when it was owned by a public corporation. When Accion Hotel failed as a business operation, an anonymous donor bought and gave the property to the Archdiocese of Agana, for use as a seminary.
Certain Catholics, opposed to the archbishop’s leadership and his affiliation with the Neocatechumenal Way movement, expressed public outrage last year following a legal opinion on the property in question. A May 2015 legal opinion written by a real estate attorney, Jacques Bronze, at the request of the Concerned Catholics of Guam, states the archdiocese no longer has control of the property because Apuron executed the deed in 2011 that transferred the property out of archdiocesan control.
The Redemptoris Mater Seminary, which is using the property in question, is affiliated with the Neocatechumenal Way, Pacific Daily News files show.
In November last year, as a result of the public controversy over this piece of prime real estate, the Guam Catholic church’s leadership publicly released the now-questioned certificates of title for the four parcels. Along with the release of the certificates of title, Monsignor David Quitugua, the archdiocesan vicar general, released a public statement: “The archbishop of Agana is the legal and sole owner of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of Guam in Yona — (formerly) Hotel Accion property.” The statement was released in the Nov. 29 edition of the Umatuna Si Yu’os, the archdiocese’s newspaper.
Klitzkie said the public needs to know an error occurred.
“A wound inflicted on the public on Nov. 29 has been allowed to fester so that now three months later the deception … has still not been healed,” Klitzkie said.
The archdiocesan leadership had declined to comment as of Thursday evening.