VIDEO: Law Prohibiting Secret Ballots Brings Education Board Officer Vote Into Question

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Guam- A recently passed Public Law prohibiting Guam Boards and Commissions from casting votes in secret brings the Guam Education Board’s election of officers last week into question.

Public Law 31-218 was signed into law by then Acting Governor Ray Tenorio on June 15, 2012.  The law was written as bill 321-31 introduced by Senator Tony Ada.  The law prohibits the use of a secret ballot and only makes an exception for the Guam Parole Board.

Read Public Law 31-218 HERE

“When I introduced that bill it was because of the board voting in secret that prompted me to introduce that bill,” Senator Ada told PNC.  “The public has a right to know who and what who voted for what. “

The law also requires that every member of a board vote.  This brings another issue with GEB’s officer vote into question as one member abstained for vote for chairman.

PNC contacted GEB’s newly elected chair Dr. Jose Cruz to find out if he was aware of the law and he was not.  Cruz said he would have to bring the issue up to the board as he wants the public to feel assured of all actions the board takes.  Cruz also noted that DOE’s legal counsel was present at the meeting and didn’t say anything about the law.

Senator Ada says he spoke with the board’s Vice Chairman Elect Peter Alecxis Ada who also said the legal counsel allowed the vote to proceed by secret ballot.

“Its probably just a misunderstanding or something that the legal counsel probably didn’t know,” Ada said.  “Hopefully they’ll remedy the situation and come out with a public vote.”

PNC also contacted GEB Member Barry Mead for comment, as he was a candidate in the elections for Chair and Vice Chair.  Mead told PNC that according to Public Law 31-218 the board’s vote was invalid.  Mead said he didn’t bring it up after the vote since he was a candidate and he didn’t want to appear as if he was a sore looser.

DOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez told PNC he believes the laws regarding the use of a secret ballot are open to interpretation and argument. 

“I am aware of questions raised about the Board’s use of the secret ballot to elect its officers.  My view is that the laws on the books regarding the actions of the Guam Education Board, the Open Government law, and the prohibition on use of a secret ballot leave some room for interpretation and argument.”  Fernandez wrote in an email response to PNC.  “However, I know this board has always had the intent to be transparent and open with regard to its activities, so I am confident they will want to resolve this matter at the earliest opportunity in our February meeting. I believe that they can do so by ratifying their vote openly through a show of hands, and then it would be great to move forward with addressing the needs of our students.”
Fernandez also says he’s consulted with several board members about the matter, and they are very willing to address the issue when they next convene at the end of the month.

The Guam Education Board’s February meeting has been rescheduled from February 20th to February 27 and will be held at Talofofo Elementary School at 6pm.