It's not easy for us to ask Yona Mayor Jesse Mendiola Blas to do what we're about to suggest, but it's the right path for him to take if he wants to consider the interest of the Yona residents and voters who elected him into office.
Blas has been in federal custody since he was arrested on Sept. 24. A federal indictment accuses him of using his public position to receive and demand bribes from supposed drug dealers in exchange for access to mailboxes that he has control over. He's also been accused of using his personal connections to get detainees or inmates freed from detention or prison, and it's in federal court records that he had a child with a woman who had spent time behind bars for local and federal drug and gun possession charges.
It might seem presumptuous to ask him to resign at this stage in his criminal case, before he has been found innocent or guilty, but we urge him to do so, not for himself but for the people whom he chose to represent.
His arrest has led to a vacuum of leadership in his village that isn't easy to resolve.
Based on Assistant Attorney General Andrew Quenga's reading of the law, the mayor can't be replaced easily.
The Yona Mayor's Office doesn't have a vice mayor. And without a vice mayor, the village's Municipal Planning Council under certain circumstances has the authority to fill a vacant mayor's office seat – subject to the approval of the Legislature, Quenga wrote in a letter meant to provide legal information and guidance. However, Blas did not appoint Municipal Planning Council members.
His failure to establish the council after having been mayor since January 2017, or for more than two years, bolsters the case for him to resign to give the village a chance to elect another mayor.
If he doesn't resign, the village's residents can't hold an election to replace him – unless a court ruling gives the green light or if the Guam Election Commission decides that he's replaceable while he's facing charges.
"A mayor can be replaced if that position becomes vacant or if the mayor is recalled," Quenga wrote on Oct. 4 in response to a question from the Mayors' Council of Guam.
However, Quenga said, "detention in a criminal case is not expressly identified as an event creating a vacancy."
"Either the Guam Election Commission or the courts could decide whether a specific set of facts constitutes a vacancy under Guam law," Quenga wrote.
Even if the GEC acts to pave the way for a special election, its decision could still be challenged in court and a decision on the case could lag for years.
Possibly the only way to resolve the problem quickly is for the mayor to resign. His constituents shouldn't have to be burdened with having to seek signatures for him to be recalled.
We ask the mayor to look beyond his self-interest and take into account the absence of leadership in his village.
It is through his resignation that he can demonstrate that his commitment to his village rises above his own interests.
If he does prove himself innocent following a trial, the mayor can run again. And voters will remember the sacrifice he made by resigning so the mayoral seat could be filled while he's locked up in jail.