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Judge upholds Mark Charfauros's firing from GPD

By Johnnie Rosario

Former senator and police commander Mark Charfauros will not be returning to Guam Police Department. Judge Vern Perez Tuesday ruled in a case Mr. Charfauros brought to the Superior Court, that his December 2016 firing for talking to the media violated his first amendment rights. He was fired by his boss that month, then appealed the firing to the Civil Service Commission. The CSC agreed with GPD and denied Charfauros's appeal of his firing. That's when he took the matter to Perez's courtroom.

GPD officers from the Agat precinct on December 24, 2016 responded to complaints of illegal fireworks at a home in Agat. Charfauros, who was off duty at the time, appeared on the scene and yelled at officers not to proceed onto the property, calling such an advance an illegal search. Video recordings show this.

He was placed on administrative leave shortly after the incident by then-police chief Joseph I. Cruz, then conducted media interviews to "get [his] side of the story out," after Mr. Cruz ordered him to not speak to the media while an internal investigation was being conducted by GPD Internal Affairs.

"The order not to speak out during the investigation was limited in duration since any adverse action after sixty (60) days would be void as a matter law," according to a ruling by the Civil Service Commission in 2019 denying Charfauros's appeal of his firing. "Charfauros jeopardized the ability of GPD to conduct a fair and unbiased investigation by speaking out in the public forum to the media prior to the completion of the investigation.”

The CSC found Charfauros's behavior insubordinate. Judge Perez, in his ruling, said, "As the CSC found, '[t]he act of insubordination by [Charfauros] could erode confidence in the command and cause lower ranked officials to question why they should follow the rules if their own manager does not follow the rules.'"

"The Court finds that Charfauros’s interest as a citizen in commenting on the Agat search does not outweigh GPD’s interest to conduct an administrative investigation," Mr. Perez said in his ruling. "The investigation was to be conducted in a limited period of time, and any restriction on Charfauros’s speech would be necessary to prevent any influence on witness statements to investigators. Accordingly, the Court finds that Charfauros did not suffer a violation of his right to free speech."

The judge found the other complaints Charfauros made about the CSC ruling against him were without enough merit, and that there was not enough reason for his court to reverse the firing.

"For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby affirms the CSC’s Decision and Order sustaining GPD’s adverse action on the termination against Charfauros in Adverse Action Appeal Case No. 17-AAO3T," Mr. Perez wrote in his ruling.

As an aside, and not directly related to this case, Kandit notes Mr. Charfauros was a political enemy of then-Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, who had already launched his losing bid for governor at the time of the Charfauros firing.

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