GEC: DOE gave Cruz a choice - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GEC: DOE gave Cruz a choice

Posted: Jul 05, 2018 4:39 PM Updated:

An election like no other – Decision 2018 - closer to full steam ahead as another controversial issue sits before the Guam Election Commission board.

This time the GEC board reviewing subpoenaed documents from the Department of Education and Rodriguez/Cruz LT candidate David Cruz.

After a complaint was sent to the GEC from former Senator Bob Klitzkie alleging DOE superintendent Jon Fernandez broke the law when he fired Senator Dennis Rodriguez’s running mate, the board subpoenaed documents from Fernandez and Cruz.

170 pages of internal DOE documents, various Whatsapp messages and email correspondence between Fernandez and Cruz passed out to board members. The board then taking time to review these documents to see if there was anything to show Fernandez broke election law.

The law in question – 3 GCA section 8202 – which says no person shall directly or indirectly use money or any other valuable offer in consideration of a person withdrawing as a candidate. Basically – did the Superintendent hold Cruz’s $124,000 contract over his head as a way to make him withdraw from the gubernatorial race? Breaking this law - a felony offense.

“Based on my review of documents provided by the Superintendent and Mr. David Cruz, Mr. Fernandez did not violate section 8202,” GEC board chair Alice Taijeron said.

Long story short, Fernandez did not break the law - the board agreeing with the chair in a unanimous vote, saying Fernandez did have a tough choice – but he was complying with the law and advice from Guam’s top legal officer – Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson when he terminated David Cruz. The AG saying Cruz was not able to hold on to his DOE job while he was running for political office.

Cruz did not return messages for comment. Since the board voted on the matter and resolved it, Fernandez and Cruz will not have to appear before the GEC board.

The Rodriguez/Cruz campaign politicized the issue in a statement released after Fernandez informed Cruz that his contract did not allow him to run for office while employed as a ROTC instructor at JFK High School. The campaign said Cruz was going to be fired for his “political affiliation” and that he was “given an ultimatum” by Fernandez – quit the campaign or quit DOE – but the GEC board disagreed with that statement, according to GEC Director Maria Pangelinan.

“There was a choice given, it wasn’t an ultimatum,” Pangelinan said.

In the meeting, the GEC board discussed correspondence between Cruz and Fernandez that indicated the Superintendent informed Cruz his status as an unclassified contract employee did not permit him to run for office without resigning.

Board members noted Cruz had responded to Fernandez and said he was aware he would have to make a choice. The board’s discussion of correspondence between Fernandez and Cruz appeared to paint a different story than the one released by the Rodriguez/Cruz campaign. The back and forth between the two men – provided in documents from both parties – indicated Cruz was given a choice, not an ultimatum, according to GEC legal counsel Vince Camacho.

Klitzkie will be notified of the board’s resolution of his complaint. The complaint is one of several the GEC has had to address this election season – and Pangelinan agrees this election is in a class of its own.

“Chris, you’re right in that the GEC has probably nor seen this many – or had to address this many issues before the election,” Pangelinan said.

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