Two wrongs don’t make a right

Political opposition to the governor, who during her first term wielded more power than any elected Guam governor before her, has been more effective and organized in the current legislature than in the two preceding it. It has been refreshing, to say the least, to see senators wielding bigger balls and calling out irregularities, wasteful spending, and even corruption.

But when that political opposition starts to do the same things they accuse the governor of doing, we need to call that out, too.

The legislature today got the ball rolling on its attempt to override the governor’s veto of Joanne Brown’s Bill No. 30-37. That bill essentially will do two things: Prohibit the government from hiring anyone convicted of the misdemeanor official misconduct; and fire anyone already working for the government who has that conviction.

All the regular red flags fly up the mast about this. First, why just official misconduct? Why don’t we prohibit convicted thieves, violent criminals, and people convicted of corruption, money laundering, and wire fraud? You know, felonies? Then there’s: Isn’t official misconduct the most vaguely defined criminal statute we have on the books? Why doesn’t this bill apply to elected officials, who also are employees of the government? And then there’s: Can’t the government get sued for firing someone without going through the merit process’ (progressive discipline) due process procedures?

And while all of those questions are good to raise, I’m not going to waste your time with them. This bill is a veiled attack on the governor, and specifically the man who already has announced he’s running for governor in 2026: Joshua Tenorio.

Proponent senators made it clear in their floor remarks that this bill is about the lieutenant governor’s brother in law, who works in a merit-based classified position at the seaport. Years prior to his hire he was accused of participating in a drug conspiracy at the prison. Instead of taking his case to trial to be cleared of the charges through a finding of innocence, which costs money most people do not have for a good attorney, he accepted a plea deal, where he pleaded guilty to official misconduct.

Ask any criminal defense lawyer. Many people who plead guilty to lesser charges never committed either that crime or the main charges that were dropped. The accused simply didn’t have the money to pay for a full and effective defense, or didn’t want to roll the dice on a jury of their peers. And the fact of the vagueness of the Guam official misconduct law makes that dice roll far more risky.

Back to Mr. Tenorio’s brother in law. This bill is about him. Well, he’s the collateral damage in a game of politics between the governor and her opponents in the legislature. Cushioned between that reality and what has been distilled for the public debate is a self righteous pander to a sense of what is just. But nothing is just about the creation of a law simply to take down your political enemies.

I don’t support this administration, and I find many of its actions and inaction to be reprehensible and even corrupt. But I will not advocate the use of the power of the state to go after someone just because of their politics or who the person happens to be related to.

And if this bill becomes law by override – if we go down this slippery slope – what stops these politicians now and in the future from orchestrating bigger accusations against any employee in the government in order to get that employee to plead down to official misconduct? One enemy down, an endless game of political retribution to go.

This video depicts the legislative speaker, Therese Terlaje, just last year telling senators she could not support this same exact measure because she did not think it was legal to make the official misconduct bar of employment retroactive, essentially using a law to fire employees without providing due process. Nothing has changed about this bill. It’s the same bill. I wonder how Ms. Terlaje will vote in the override. In fact, I wonder how they all will vote. Because the only question I’ll wonder about those who vote for the override will be: “Were they just too stupid to see what’s really going on here? Or are they just as corrupt as the governor?”

The governor exacting political retribution on her enemies is wrong. Nothing makes it right, when her enemies play that same game.

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