International Bridge & Construction Marianas Inc. vice president Robert W. Toelkes aired his side on an alleged controversial deal between his company and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. that was brought up by House minority leader Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan).
Propst, last month, again sounded the alarm on an emergency purchase contract awarded by CUC to the company owned by Toelkes, whom he said was also connected to a similar deal that raised red flags almost two years ago.
The contract is for a generator that will be shipped and installed on Rota after the CUC board declared an emergency to create reserve power for the island.
Toelkes, in a letter, said the story that came out on the Saipan Tribune was filled with defamatory statements made by Propst—who was sent a copy along with Senate President Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota), Senate Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications Committee chair Sen. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan), and House vice speaker Rep. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (R-Saipan).
He then mentioned that their family had been accepting and completing construction projects in the Marianas and other Pacific Islands ever before Propst was born. “The Toelkes family in fact completed the first large construction project in the Marianas, the runway and taxiway at the [Francisco C. Ada] Saipan International Airport.”
“We built that for the Trust Territory government, through our company American International Constructors. The Toelkes family has been working with CUC since 1987. IBCM, one of the family’s companies, has provided power generation to CUC from satellite power stations located at Agingan Point, Isley Field, Power Plant II, Lowe Base, and the Rota Power Plant.”
He added that their family and company have also been involved in several construction projects and power plant operations of up to 80 megawatts in the U.S. state of Alaska, the U.S. territories of the CNMI and Guam, and the Federates States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
Toelkes also clarified that their companies had filed for bankruptcy before was a misleading statement. “Although technically correct, this was a misleading statement because it implied the companies were not capable of completing projects. In point of fact, the bankruptcy related to a contract with the Navy that in part ended up in court, and my family members were awarded $775,000 as whistleblowers by [District Court of Guam Chief] Judge [Frances] Tydingco-Gatewood.
He then attached a Pacific Daily News article that came out on Nov. 17, 2017 where William and Fred Toelkes filed a lawsuit against Toa Corp. of Japan in 2013 under the Federal False Claims Act.
Toelkes also refuted claims that their family company failed to finish a project at Guam’s John F. Kennedy High School, have done something wrong in a generator purchase between CUC and General Pacific Marianas Inc., and that he was also implicated in the controversial MV Luta case. He then provided a building permit and certificate of completion of the JFK school project as proof.
He added that the Toelkes family was only a contractor on the proposed generator purchase project and that he was also dismissed from the “frivolous” [MV Luta] case with prejudice based on court records.
Toelkes said that their family had been providing assistance to the communities where they operate like on Rota while at the same time has strong words for Propst. “Anyone who has lived on Rota knows that IBCM and the Toelkes family have supported Rota and its people for years in monetary contributions and services when requested.”
“But you, Mr. Propst, do not care about the truth or people’s reputation. What you care about is having someone to attack to get your name in the newspaper to further your political career.”
Their company has also helped the islands of Saipan and Tinian after Super Typhoon Yutu by providing emergency services to CUC, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the CNMI Public School System, and the Tinian Mayor’s Office.
IBCM, he added, has also participated in several invitations to bid like replacing the CNMI Department of Finance emergency generator, Rota Route 10 resurfacing project, and removal and relocation of engines 4 and 8 at Power Plant 1 in Lower Base. “And currently bidding a water meter replacement project for CUC. I do not see you, Mr. Propst, complaining about IBCM or the Toelkes family participating in these projects.”
Reason for protest
Toelkes then gave a summary of the reason why they filed a protest on the procurement of an emergency generator for Rota. [On] Jan. 25, 2019, IBCM filed a notice with CUC that it would like to participate and had the necessary experience to do so. A response was received that our request had been forwarded to our PG/upper management.”
“[On] Jan. 28, IBCM followed up on the request. No response was provided. [On] Jan. 3, [I] attended the board meeting held several days after IBCM submitted the request. During this board meeting, it was determined the board wanted more information from the only bidder before awarding the contract.”
He then asked if IBCM would have the opportunity “to respond the answer received was that the bid due date had passed. Therefore, IBCM had no choice but to file a protest. [On] Feb. 1, IBCM was notified that it would be allowed to submit a quote in response to CUC-RFQ-19-010. The letter stated that CUC was under no obligation to act on the quote.”
Toelkes added that they assumed that they had given a better deal when they submitted a quotation with four options on Feb. 4. “IBCM assumes that its proposal was a better value and [our] proposal was offering a 12-month warranty versus the requested six-month warranty. It may also be due to IBCM’s extensive marine logistical experience that [it] was the better choice.”
He added: [On] Feb. 13, a telephone conference was held with CUC and legal representation from the [CNMI] Attorney General’s Office. IBCM requested to submit a best and final offer which it did on the same day. [On] Feb. 15, [the] draft contract was issued to IBCM.”
Toelkes said the facts show that IBCM has done nothing wrong. “In fact, IBCM possibly saved the people of the CNMI money because IBCM’s price must have been lower than the next lowest bid by a significant amount or it would not have received award of the contract. Getting the generators to Rota were a critical factor for this emergency project.”
He then said that he has extensive experience in the projects that their company are getting into. “I personally have extensive marine logistical experience in the Pacific and Alaska. I have been involved and supervised loading, unloading, and transport of construction equipment and supplies to and from Pacific Islands for more than 30 years. I have also personal and extensive knowledge of Rota and in particular Rota Harbor since it was [IBCM] that constructed [it] under contract for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
“The last contract that IBCM performed on Rota required the transportation of 10,000 tons of basalt aggregate that was lightered from a bulk carrier offshore into the Rota Harbor using 260’ barge and 6,000 hp twin screw tug. This was in and above the asphalt plant, paving equipment, other materials, and supplies that were required to complete the resurfacing of the Rota Runway for the [CPA]. The project manager of this project just happened to be [me].”
Toelkes had some parting words for Propst. “In contrast to the experience, success, and hard work of the Toelkes family companies, Mr. Propst, and with all due respect, you are just a politician. You have never accomplished anything except winning an election. And now you have shown that you are like too many other politicians who do not care about facts.”
“What you care about is getting your name in the newspaper so you can win the next election. In your effort to get your name in the newspaper, you ‘forgot’ the facts, did not check facts, implied something was improper when you had no facts supporting what you implied, and ignored the truth about the Rota emergency generator procurement. You belong in Washington, D.C.”