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AFT wraps investigation into local union

by Michele Catahay

Guam - The American Federation of Teachers is wrapping up its investigation into a number of issues relating to the leadership of the Guam Federation of Teachers. AFT Western Regional Director Sol Smith has been on Guam for over a week to investigate a number of issues, more specifically with the constitutionality of the election of GFT delegates to the AFT National Convention, which took place a couple of months ago in Seattle.

While he's been the western regional director for 13 years now, Smith says this is the first investigation he's had to conduct on Guam.  "I decided since I was here I received some complaints, some complaints were over two years old, about things that happened two years ago. I decided to look into those and get more in depth information as to what that might have been about," he explained.  

A number of individuals to include former GFT senior field representative Robert Koss, GFT member Carol Somerfleck, DoDEA bus driver Ed Quintanilla, and former GFT members James Nichols and Barry Mead were among some who were interviewed by Smith.

After interviewing them, Smith says he met with GFT president Matt Rector and his officers, along with the executive council.  "I also brought out an auditor, an accountant I should say, with the AFT's Julia Hausten, who is actually thoroughly going through the books because there had been in at least some of the complaints some mention of foul play-financial foul play. I want to assure them that our books are very much in order and Julia has been here for over a week thoroughly going through those books and still at this point. We do have some preliminary findings and I'll make that known tonight, as well."

GFT former steward Carol Somerfleck says Smith also met with teachers from Agana Heights Elementary School. The group had planned to submit amendments, with Somerfleck saying, "With what has happened with the discussions I've had personally, and the discussions we had as a group when mr. Smith was here, I'm hopeful. I have to be hopeful because I don't want to think all of this is for not. But I'm going to be guarded at the same time because I know some of it he can't reveal because it has to be submitted to the executive council."

Agana Heights GATE teacher Lisa Villanueva plans on attending the general membership meeting tonight. She says she's discouraged by the GFT's attempt to keep non-members out.  "I'm very upset because we're not allowed to [attend]," she said.  "I's just family members and I know they kept the media out. I'm thinking, 'Well, you have nothing to hide. So why not invite the media?'"

Smith leaves tomorrow and will compile a report to the AFT. While he couldn't speculate on when the report will be completed, he hopes to have a resolution on the matter before January.  "Once the AFT has its findings and determines if anything needs to be done, certainly whether we find anything that needs to be done or not, we will turn back a report to the executive council.  And I intend to copy those people that I interviewed," he promised.

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