Guam – Just a day after being appointed by the governor as second in command at the Dept. of Corrections, newly minted Deputy Director Eric Palacios has issued an eleventh hour apology for stirring up trouble at a senator’s expense.
A post on Palacios’ Facebook page reads, “Ai adei talu, si Telena. Duru talu yan i’ sound bytes. Maolekna un taitai i’ GO’s i’ militat to avoid getting reprimanded again.” In English this roughly translates to, “Oh my gosh again, Telena. Always so fast with the sound bites. You better read the government orders from the military to avoid getting reprimanded again.”
The post was in response to public comments Sen. Telena Nelson (D) made about Palacios’ appointment as Deputy Director of Corrections, in which she expressed concern that Palacios lacks the qualifications to lead agencies such as Guam Customs and Quarantine and Department of Corrections, which Sen. Nelson identifies as paramilitary agencies, and both of which are under Nelson’s purview in her capacity as Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. Sen. Nelson withheld Palacios’ nomination as Director of Customs and Quarantine Agency, bringing his appointment to Customs to a halt. His appointment to CQA officially expired Sept. 7.
Nelson’s statements appear to have rankled Palacios, who insinuated in his post that Nelson moved up in rank within the military through sexual favors. Palacios wrote, “As for your recent promotion…hmmm. Seems suspect and it makes me wonder whether what you told me in our meeting at Frannie’s is how you go it: ‘Women in the military have to [expletive] upwards to move upwards.’ Shame on you for thinking so low of our women in uniform! Ready to take a polygraph whenever you are! 100”
Adelup however, appeared to be washing its hands of Palacios’ social media outburst, stating, “This is Eric’s personal page on which he is voicing his opinion on a conversation he had. You can direct questions posted on the FB page to its owner.”
While the page is a personal social media account, several years ago Adelup issued an executive order advising employees of proper social media conduct. First that government employees should “post only appropriate and respectful content.” The advisement states, “If the government is a subject of the content you are creating, be clear and open about the fact that you are an associated person and make it clear that your views do not represent those of the Government or others affiliated with the Government.
“It is best to include a disclaimer such as, ‘The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Guam or its agencies and departments.’”
Nowhere in Palacios’ Facebook post did such a disclaimer appear—which raised the question whether Palacios’ views were a reflection of the governor’s views, much less the senator’s.
This question, however, was not answered by the administration, which had no further comment. The executive order even addresses posts of complaint or criticism, stating “avoid using statements…which could be viewed as obscene, threatening, intimidating, or disparaging. Examples of such conduct might include offensive posts meant to intentionally harm someone’s reputation or posts that could contribute to a hostile work environment on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, age or any other status protected by law or other Government policy.”
Palacios’ statement contains several characteristics of a post the administration officially frowns upon in its social media EO.
Palacios’ post appeared to target the senator’s gender and disparage her military service. And given that Nelson chairs public safety oversight for the legislature, the post may even incite a hostile work environment, since Palacios might appear before Nelson in response to matters dealing with the island’s prison system.
Despite the apparent disregard for the administration’s policy on social media posts, Adelup refused to comment further.
Meanwhile, Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee wasn’t shy about speaking out against Palacios’ attack on her colleague.
“Mr. Palacios’ comments say more about him than they could ever say about Senator Nelson,” Biscoe Lee said in an official statement. “As Thanksgiving approaches, we should all be thankful that January is just 42 days away.” Guam’s first woman governor and her administration will take the reins of government the first week of the New Year, at the same time the island’s first woman-majority legislature is sworn in.
After the multimedia backlash to his Facebook post, it appeared that Palacios has removed the post from his page. Nelson responded with a written statement toward the end of the workday.
“While recent comments made by an Adelup appointee do not deserve the dignity of a response, it would also be unfair for me to remain silent,” she said. “Allowing people in power to think that hurting women is acceptable is an injustice to all women.
“Women are resilient and compassionate, we have earned our place and we no longer have to defend ourselves against chauvinism. As a woman, a veteran and your servant leader, I will continue to advocate for women being oppressed and undervalued. We will continue to create spaces for leadership, purposeful activism and change, unapologetically.”
Acting Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Therese Terlaje (D) has written a letter asking Gov. Calvo to reconsider Palacios’ appointment to Dept. of Corrections in order to, “remove the seeming endorsement of the appointee’s behavior.”
All three of these outspoken female lawmakers have been reelected to the 35th Guam Legislature.
By 6:02 p.m., Palacios had finally issued a public apology, and by 8:11 p.m., the Office of the Governor was declaiming Palacios’ Facebook post.
Addressing “Dear Newsrooms,” Palacios expressed his regret.
“I wholeheartedly apologize for a social media post made this morning. I have since removed the post. During a very frank conversation with my superiors, I was reminded that this administration does not condone unprofessional behavior. To Sen. Nelson: I am sorry. To the people of Guam, dispensa yu.”
Here is the full official statement from Adelp:
The Chief of Staff has redressed Eric Palacios regarding unprofessional comments posted on social media. COS reminded him that as public servants we must hold ourselves to a certain level of decorum at all times.
Governor Calvo has tasked the Chief of Staff to remind all cabinet members and senior staffers that we have a job to do – and not much time left to do it. The Governor noted that as public servants we must remain committed to serving our island community.
“Women have played a large role in the successes of this Administration and I want to make it very clear that I hold members of my Cabinet and all staffers to a higher standard at all times. My focus during these waning days is on our island’s stability and a smooth transition with the incoming administration,” stated Governor Calvo.
Throughout his tenure, Governor Calvo has appointed women to high-level positions in his administration — from his Chief Legal Advisor to his Deputy Chief of Staff, to director and deputy positions at the Department of Administration, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, Guam Memorial Hospital, the Department of Labor — just to name a few.
Palacios is serving as Acting Director of the Department of Corrections while Director Tony Lamorena is off island.