BY STEVE GRAFF
And then there was one.
Thomas V. O’Connor, owner of the Guam Inspection and Certification Bureau Inc., is now the only certified elevator inspector on island, according to a Dec. 30 letter sent to the Journal from the law office of Terry E. Timbin in Hagatna.
Two individuals contracted by the Department of Public Works — Leo Brady and Paul Perez — had previously been hired by DPW to perform inspections; however, according to the letter, they did not meet the requirement as qualified elevator inspectors under the American Society of Mechanical Engineers set forth by Guam law.
“This situation has been brought to the attention of the current director of the department and, after consultation with him and the attorney for the department, we have been informed that neither Mr. Brady nor Mr. Perez will be granted commissions for 2020,” the letter said.
Linda Ibanez, special project coordinator at DPW, told the Journal DPW received the letter from Timbin’s office on Jan 2., and it was being reviewed by legal counsel.
O’Connor has conducted inspections since his business was incorporated in 2013, according to an Aug. 6, 2018, article in the Journal.
At that time, O’Connor estimated there were around 700 elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters and other lifting devices on island — though DPW had given a more generous number of between 3,000 and 4,000. Per the law, the devices must be inspected twice a year by a certified inspector.
O’Connor told the Journal in 2018 that he inspects roughly half of them each year.
With only three inspectors, it was unclear how many of those devices were and continued to be inspected or well-maintained.
Disagreements between DPW and O’Connor date at least back to January 2018 when O’Connor accused DPW of intentionally delaying inspection permits with inspections done by O’Connor, while being timelier with other inspectors, according to Journal files.
O’Connor, at the time, also claimed he was the only certified inspector, not the other two, because of their lack of certifications.
“But there is a provision in the law that gives the director discretionary authority to determine the qualifications of an applicant for commission,” acting DPW director Andrew Leon Guerrero told the Journal in 2018.
Leon Guerrero cited a 2005 legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, nearly one year after Public Law 27-147 was created. Charles H. Troutman, who was the deputy attorney general at the time, wrote that the DPW director has authority to make his own judgment on ASME’s standards.
“The law permits the director to use any method he sees fit to determine a person’s ASME qualifications. The director may develop the test locally, he may use an ASME test with their permission or he may borrow another jurisdiction’s test with permission, provided it tests for the required ASME standards,” Troutman wrote.
An August 2018 search conducted on the website of the National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities, a nonprofit that provides training and testing for elevator inspectors, listed only O’Connor as certified. A Jan. 2, 2020, search confirmed the same.
Ibanez acknowledged Brady and Perez do not have QEI certifications but said that they are currently working toward acquiring them. In the meantime, that leaves Guam with only one certified inspector for elevators and other lift devices.
“Mr. O’Connor has been granted a commission for 2020 and, as of January 1, 2020, he will be the only individual on the island who may lawfully conduct the inspections and the only means by which you will be able to obtain an operating permit pursuant to 21 GCA 67211,” the letter stated. mbj