Senator Nerissa Underwood says Fernandez should’ve been placed on administrative leave right away and GEB should’ve conducted an internal investigation.
Guam – Lawmakers are questioning how the Guam Education Board handled the sexual harassment allegations made against Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez.
Education Oversight Chair Senator Nerissa Underwood expressed her disappointment that no internal investigation was launched right away. She says, “At this point, what you revealed to the community is this: the complaint of the student has not been handled in a timely manner and it has been to date mishandled.”
Guam Education Board Vice Chair Rosie Tainatongo explains that with the advise of their legal counsel, the board at the lowest level, met with the student who filed the complaint and the Superintendent. Tainatongo explains that it was what they call “mediation”. Then, the board conducted a fact finding. However, Underwood says that’s still not considered an internal investigation and does not follow policies and procedures.
Underwood questions, “Are you now willing to acknowledge that all previous conclusions about this matter was premature because you did not take the steps for an independent investigation? The process you used up to this point is legally questionable and will subject the department to further harm in the future and severely damage the goodwill of our system in the eyes of the public and especially the eyes of our students.”
Underwood also asked the board why Fernandez wasn’t placed on administrative leave immediately. “This is a difficult lesson to learn and it’s particularly awkward for the Guam Education Board to get involved in this process because it normally wouldn’t. He was clearly involved in his deliberations and fact-finding by not placing him on administrative leave immediately, as is the case of every other DOE employee.”
Vice Speaker BJ Cruz explains that Fernandez’s actions sound like retaliation. Cruz says, “If you are going to file for extortion, it should’ve been filed as soon as the offer was asked for whatever amount of money. It sounds like retaliation when all of a sudden, someone comes to the board meeting and says ‘I just want you to know a police complaint has been filed.’ It never even occurred to me but that seems like classic retaliation.”
GEB Member Ken Chargualaf says they requested the AG’s Office to step in and conduct an investigation. If the AG cannot take the request, the board agreed to ask another GovGuam agency. He says, “If the Attorney General may not be able to conduct the investigation, the board has discussed the possibility of requesting another government agency to help us with our investigation.”