Cabot opinion: GEC can't remove Rector as senator - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Cabot opinion: GEC can't remove Rector as senator

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - The Guam Election Commission cannot remove Senator Matt Rector from his legislative position - even if he was convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor involving a crime of moral turpitude.  That was the legal opinion delivered to the GEC's board of directors Wednesday afternoon.

GEC Legal Counsel Cesar Cabot determined that Rector can remain in his elected position, as the Commission has not received any official documents detailing his criminal background.  The legal opinion was made even after the senator admitted being convicted of burglary in the state of California in 1983, stating on his Facebook page that he made "a stupid decision with some friends to break into a mall".

Rector claims he forgot about the arrest when he applied for a concealed firearms permit with the Guam Police Department.  He also forgot to admit the conviction when he swore before the GEC that he was qualified to run for elected office.

While the Democrat lawmaker has said he is moving to have his record expunged, Cabot's legal opinion notes that the Commission has not received any documentation outlining the exact crime Rector was charged with, and the scope or nature of the alleged conviction against him, despite the fact that Rector has openly admitted the burglary conviction since KUAM News first broke the story.

Cabot was tasked to answer three questions, the first being whether Rector should have been placed on the 2008 General Election ballot for senator; if he was indeed convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor or crime of moral turpitude.

The legal counsel determined that if he were convicted of either a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude, Rector would not have been qualified as a senatorial candidate.  GEC certified Rector based on the clean police report submitted to the Commission; Police Chief Paul Suba says the police clearances given by the Guam Police only indicate crimes committed on the island and not in other jurisdictions.

Secondly, the GEC's legal counsel determined that if Rector was convicted, the GEC does not have the authority to annul its earlier certificate of election and remove him.  Cabot noted that the Organic Act of Guam allows the Legislature to retain the right to select and qualify its members.  Cabot also added that if Rector was in fact convicted of a felony or a moral turpitude crime, the Organic Act would prohibit him from sitting as a senator, adding that the Legislature has the authority to address the issue.

Cabot lastly determined that if Rector were to be removed, a special election would have to be held to fill the vacancy in the Guam Legislature.

And prior to this afternoon's meeting, KUAM News caught up with Speaker Judi Won Pat, inquiring as to whether she is prepared to handle the Rector issue should the GEC determine that it is the Legislature that must act.  "I am not shrugging our responsibility at all, we will address the issue," she stated.  "As you know, the Ethics Committee is meeting; we also know that by January 6 deliberation and then action to be taken one way or the other. We also know that colleagues have indicated that a motion will be placed on the floor. And surely when that happens then that's when we will be addressing that whole issue."

Senator Frank Blas, Jr. has questioned whether Senator Rector should be able to participate in any legislative hearings and on session floor due to his conviction.  As for any comment from Rector himself, he continues to shun island media.

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