Palacios quashed, 7 other nominees sail through senate

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Sen. Wil Castro (R) motions for roll call during session Monday, after Sen. Telena Nelson (D) objects. Castro attempted to push the nomination of Eric Palacios onto the voting agenda without a Homeland Security Committee report, but the motion failed.

So, it looks like legislators of the outgoing 34th are allowing Eric Palacios’ Customs directorship nomination to fizzle without a vote, after all. Instead, an overruling nine senators have voted to set aside the nomination, presumably to let the confirmation deadline expire, rather than act on it.

Guam – A majority of senators cast Eric Palacios ‘odd man out’ on Monday morning, just before a supermajority approved seven other nominations, each by a vote of 14 ayes and one excused absence.

According to the Office of the Governor, without senate confirmation, Eric Palacios will remain acting director of the Customs and Quarantine Agency. Palacios will serve at the governor’s pleasure at least until September 7, the date the nomination runs its course, but possibly all the way through the end of Gov. Calvo’s term in January.

With a motion to place Palacios’ nomination on the voting file for the start of legislative session on Monday morning, the Calvo Administration finally witnessed the Governor’s pick discussed on the floor, for the record, even though several senators were reluctant, if not adamantly opposed to entertaining it.

“Ramrod politics has never been something that I’ve subscribed to,” Sen. Michael San Nicolas (D) said during discussion on whether to allow the nomination to emerge for a formal vote, at the request of Sen. Wil Castro (R), notwithstanding house rules. No confirmation vote for Palacios’ nomination had been calendared, because no report on the nomination had been issued by the Committee on Housing, Utilities, Public Safety and Homeland Security.

“As a committee chair myself, I have on numerous occasions withheld nominations,” San Nicolas said. “And so there is a time and a place for a committee chair to be able to exercise the authority that they are granted under the rules. And, regardless of how we feel about the nominee, the decision by the chair will be owned by the chair.”

Speaker BJ Cruz (D) interrupted Sen. Tom Ada’s (D) request “to act on the [several] appointments” then before the deliberative body, in order to handle Castro’s motion for a confirmation vote on behalf of the governor’s Customs directorship nominee.

“Before we do that, I have a hand that’s gone up, and now two hands have gone up. Senator?” Cruz said.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Notwithstanding the house rules, I’d like to place the nomination of Eric M. Palacios to the position of Director of Customs and Quarantine onto the session agenda,” Castro said.

“On the motion to place Eric Palacios on session agenda, is there any objection?” the Speaker asked.

“There’s no committee report, so I have to object,” Homeland Security Chair Sen. Telena Nelson (D) said.

“There is a motion to object,” Cruz said. “All those in favor?” Cruz tried to guage the body’s temperature on the objection but was suddenly interrupted when Castro gestured.

“Yes?”  Cruz asked.

“Mr. Speaker, I’d like to call for a roll call. Thank you,” Castro said.

“Roll call,”  Cruz said.

After a brief caucus with Legislative Counsel Julian Aguon at Sen. San Nicolas’s insistence, in order to make sure colleagues were OK to vote on the motion to entertain the nomination without a committee report, voting ensued.

“On the motion to place the nomination on the voting file, there were five ayes, nine nays. Motion fails,” Cruz said.

And, with that, the retiring Speaker cast his gaze upon the floor to address a comment from Castro after colleagues roll called not to place Palacios’ confirmation vote on the day’s agenda.

“I heard ‘usurp’, I heard  ‘ramrod’, I heard ‘respect the committee chair’, but I’m not going to respond to those individual statements, Mr. Speaker,” Castro said. “But  I will publicly thank the good senators for allowing at least the motion to be heard on the floor, and voting their conscience. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”

Senators Castro, Espaldon, Morrison, Muna, and Rodriguez all voted in favor of entertaining Palacios’ nomination, but their collective ayes weren’t enough to bring the nomination to the floor for a vote. San Nicolas said he would have supported Palacios’ nomination, but not without a committee report from Nelson.

The Legislature, as a body, has resisted Palacios’ confirmation, following prior allegations of sexual harassment and importation of contraband. Nevertheless, Gov. Calvo continues to stand by his man.

“I want to thank Sen. Wil Castro for his leadership in making a motion to get Eric Palacios’ nomination heard on the session floor,” Calvo wrote in a statement released to media Monday afternoon. “I’d also like to thank Sens. Tommy Morrison, Louise Muna, Jim Espaldon, and Dennis Rodriguez for voting in favor to hear the nomination to act on the appointment. All I wanted was to get a vote on it, so I thank these senators for being transparent.”

The official statement from the Office of the Governor also stated, “Eric Palacios will serve as the Acting Director of Guam Customs and Quarantine until his appointment expires, as defined by law.”

The front office has not stated for certain how it sees Palacios serving the administration following the September 7 expiration of his CQA nomination—writing, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Seven gubernatorial appointees approved by legislature

While leaving Palacios’ nomination dangling, senators rubberstamped seven other nominees on Monday. They are as follows:

  • The Nomination Kate Baltazar to serve as a Station Manager of the Guam Educational Telecommunications Corporation (KGTF/PBS). *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Fanai C. Castro to serve as a Performing Arts Member of the Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA). *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Påle’ Eric Forbes to serve as a History Representative of the Guam Historic Preservation Review Board. *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Francis J. Guerrero to serve as a Member of the Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency (CAHA). *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Stephen J. Guerrero to serve as a Member of the Guam Parole Board. *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Michael W. Makio to serve as an Architect Representative of the Guam Historic Preservation Review Board. *Placed on Session Agenda, Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18
  • The Nomination Simeon M. Palomo to serve as a Guam History Representative of the Kosas Board of Advisors. *Placed on Session Agenda , Moved to the Third Reading File; and Voted on: CONFIRMED (14 yeas and 1 excused absence – Senator Fernando Esteves) – 8/27/18

*Note: nomination confirmation information provided by Committee on Rules, 34th Guam Legislature.