Experts: Cruz ripe for auditor’s race

Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz (file photo)

But the Election Commission’s executive director says the jury’s still out

Guam – The candidacy of Sen. BJ Cruz in the approach to the August special election for public auditor remains in question at least until after the Guam Election Commission Board meets this afternoon.

Working into the weekend after an adjourned Wednesday meeting cut conversation short, the Board reconvenes at 3:30 p.m. today to discuss eligibility requirements affecting Cruz’s legal sanction to run for public auditor.

Board members have been examining and discussing a two-part section of Title 3 of the Guam Code Annotated, written as follows:

  • 6105. Person Eligible for Only One (1) Office.
  • (a) No person shall be eligible for more than one (1) elective office to be filled in the same election. The term “election” as used in this Section includes a general and a local election held on the same date, so as to prohibit a person from running for office in a local election and in a general election at the same time.
  • (b) No person shall be eligible for an office to be filled in an election if sixty (60) days prior to the primary he or she is holding another elective office, the term of which will not expire on or prior to the date of commencement of the term of office for which he or she is running, with the exception of any elective office for which a special election would be required in the event of a vacancy.

By way of subparagraph (b), it seems to some election watchers that Cruz’s current status as an elected official serving in a capacity other than auditor does not prevent him from running for public auditor. And perhaps owing in part to the 60-day rule, Cruz indicated to PNC that he would simply resign his seat as senator within sufficient advance of certification of the general election, were he to win the special election coinciding with the August 25th primary.

The special election for auditor was set in motion when Doris Flores Brooks vacated the elected public auditor’s position on June 8th, in order to campaign for Guam delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Respicio chimes in

In a June 28th open letter to GEC Chair Alice Taijeron, former senator Rory Respicio honed in on the final phrase of the law’s subparagraph (b). (See bold letters, above.)

“There is a specific code which addresses a person’s eligibility for only one office for which a special election would be required in the event of a vacancy,” Respicio wrote.

“This added section of law, namely 3 GCA §6105(b) resulted from the passage of Bill No. 241-32 (COR), and signed into law as P.L. 32-129 on February 10, 2014. I sponsored Bill No. 241-32 to amend the practice of how vacancies for Mayors and Vice Mayors were statutorily handled. Prior to P.L.  32-129, the Governor would appoint a successor. P.L. 32-129 now provides parity for the offices of Mayor and Vice Mayor and standardized the same triggers for a special election for other partisan and non-partisan elective offices. Also, in cases where the vacancy exists ‘less than 240 days before the date of the next general election…a majority vote of the Municipal Planning Council of the municipality in which the vacancy occurs, subject to the advice and consent of I Lehislatura.’

“In the process of addressing this issue as it relates to Mayors and Vice Mayors, I needed to also address a situation wherein an incumbent Vice Mayor may seek the unexpired term of the Mayor in a special election without having to first resign as Vice Mayor. This situation could be applicable for other partisan  and non-partisan elective offices, so I wrote Section 3 of Bill 241-32 (COR) to provide  for an across the board application for all other elective offices, including partisan and non-partisan positions, and not just for the Mayors and Vice Mayors. This action, Madam Chair, is consistent with my body of work to provide a remedy which levels the playing field and since I chose to codify this statute as 3 GCA §6105(b), it provides for an across the board application, and clearly is applicable in this instance. Doing so otherwise, is a gross mischaracterization of our island’s election laws, and the legislative intent for P.L. 32-129.

“I hope this letter provides valuable insight as you and your colleagues further deliberate the fate of Speaker Cruz’s eligibility to be a candidate for public auditor in this upcoming special election…

“For the record, I would have provided this same advocacy for the Rule of Law for anyone else regardless of the individual.”

Respicio closed by offering to appear at the GEC Board’s reconvening today.

On the cusp of case law

Meanwhile, a political insider and unnamed reliable source has agreed wholeheartedly with PNC’s observation that however the GEC board decides to handle the Cruz case, it could well set a precedent for administrative law and a guiding bit of case law for the courts. Allowing that there could be different interpretations of the same citation now under the microscope, Election Commission Executive Director Maria Pangelinan told PNC on Friday afternoon that Cruz’s public auditor’s candidacy is now “all up to the board.”

But former senator and former Superior Court pro tempore judge Robert Klitzkie might beg to differ. “The general prohibition of 3 GCA §6105 addresses general, local, and primary elections. The general prohibition is not applicable to Speaker Cruz, who is a candidate in a special election,” Klitzkie said. “BJ is in the clear.”

Benjamin J.F. Cruz, a former Guam Supreme Court chief justice and former governor’s legal counsel, studied the applicable election law before announcing his candidacy for public auditor and concluded that he was safe to run. He now serves as Speaker of the 34th Guam Legislature and as Chairman  of its Committee  on Appropriations and Adjudication.

Cruz faces challenger

The Election Commission’s 2018 Primary Election candidacy filing record suggests that Cruz will face Dr. Doreen T. Crisostomo in the special election for public auditor. Crisostomo is Associate Professor of Accounting at the University of Guam’s School of Business & Public Administration. Both candidates filed on GEC’s June 26th filing deadline. While both candidates are associated with the Democratic Party of Guam, the public auditor’s election is nonpartisan. The “Party Affiliation” column on the filing registry is blank for both candidates.