The upside of the controversy surrounding Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's nominee for police chief is that this candidate has a good and long career spanning decades in the local police force.
Capt. Stephen Ignacio is a well-liked guy as shown by the shower of praise he received from people who know him as a public servant and a man of integrity.
Ignacio had been low-key up until he was thrust in the spotlight following his nomination to the top job at the Guam Police Department.
So the issue we're raising isn't about Ignacio's nomination. The issue is how certain senators handled it.
They knew a mental health evaluation on Ignacio had been issued for more than a month, and that the finding wasn't good. A clinical psychologist, Dr. Andrea Leitheiser, issued a March 11 report that found Ignacio "unfit" for the job. The report was publicly released several weeks later as an attachment in the committee report, but it lacked context. Throwing in a subsequent evaluation from a family physician that validates Ignacio's fitness for the high-pressure role only led to further raised eyebrows, because a family doctor's evaluation is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison to a clinical psychologist's report.
It didn't take The Guam Daily Post more than a day to ask for clarification from Leitheiser, who said her finding was based on an assessment of Ignacio at the point of the evaluation. She also apparently outlined recommendations – blacked-out in the version that became public – that could remedy her findings.
"Mental health is just like physical health," Leitheiser told the Post. "Some periods of time we might be doing markedly well. Other times, markedly not well. But it's not like we're locked in for the rest of our lives in a certain condition."
"We can recover from depression and anxiety," said the clinical psychologist, who also evaluated former Police Chief Joseph Cruz when he was nominated for the job.
After Ignacio went through public humiliation via the release of a report lacking context, Sen. Jose Terlaje's committee that reviewed the nomination announced he would seek a second opinion on Ignacio's mental health.
The second evaluation should have been requested before the committee report went out. Or better yet, any nominee should go through the required mental health screening before his or her name is announced to the public so that the nominee will have the option of bowing out if the test doesn't deem him or her fit for a job.
Still, rules are rules and if he doesn't pass the second mental health evaluation, it's unlikely senators will have sufficient cause to let him continue with the police department's top job when they have – by law – certain standards to follow.
It's a lesson learned for future nominees. Ask the governor to let you go through the required mental health screening first, before your name is publicly announced.
In Ignacio's case, it's he and his family who will be left with shame that would be tough for most people to shake off. Public service is a calling for some people – but some of the good ones might decide to stay away.