Teacher wins job back after misconduct plea

HEARING: Mark Taisipic, left, along with his attorney Jacqueline Terlaje appear before the Civil Service Commission for a status hearing Jan. 7 in Hagåtña. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Mark Taisipic, who taught special education at C.L. Taitano Elementary school before he was terminated from the Guam Department of Education in 2015 because of an allegation of improper touching, won his teaching job back through the Civil Service Commission on a technicality.

While the majority of commissioners voted Tuesday in favor of GDOE management, they failed to reach the four votes needed for the termination to stand.

The issue stems back to December 2014, when Taisipic was arrested on allegations that he violated a student during the 2008-2009 school year.

According to the final adverse action, Taisipic was temporarily assigned to the facilities and maintenance division at GDOE before being dismissed in February 2015. 

"I am now informed that you are a person who is prohibited from teaching and it is my duty to ensure that you are not appointed or assigned to perform work as a teacher in contact with minors. Prohibition orders are made by a judge only when he considers that it is in the public interest to do so," GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez wrote at the time.

Taisipic appealed to the commission shortly after the termination on the premise that the primary reason for the dismissal – incapacity to perform duties – is the result of a court mandate, and even if that mandate were left unmodified, it does not make him incapable of working at GDOE, where he had worked for 20 years.

GDOE legal counsel Jesse Nasis stated during his closing remarks Tuesday, at the conclusion of the merit hearing on the case, that the department dismissed Taisipic based on his incapacity to perform teaching duties and nothing else. He asked the commission to sustain the adverse action.

Jacqueline Terlaje, Taisipic's lawyer, said GDOE management demanded that her client provide resolutions and alternatives.

"That's not what the law says," Terlaje stated. "The law says, according to DOE's personnel rules and regulations, that all levels of supervision and management share the responsibility for strict adherence of the employee's job protection rights."

Commissioners Priscilla Tuncap, Anthony Benavente and Robert Taitano voted in favor of management. Vice Chairman John Smith and Chairman Juan Calvo voted in favor of Taisipic.

Without four votes for management, Taisipic prevailed in the case. Calvo said by law, the employee is to be immediately reinstated following the commission's decision.

When asked about the reinstatement or if GDOE will appeal the decision, Nasis said he will need to discuss the matter with the superintendent. 

Charges dropped

Taisipic was initially arrested on allegations involving one victim, but his indictment identified a second girl. Both were around 10 or 11 years old at the time of the alleged crimes. Taisipic was accused of touching the girls in a sexual manner.

He was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct for each victim but in 2018, Taisipic entered an Alford plea agreement. According to the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, an Alford plea allows a defendant to enter a plea agreement without admitting guilt.

The felony criminal sexual conduct charges were dropped, and Taisipic pleaded guilty to official misconduct and child abuse as misdemeanors.

A misdemeanor conviction is not an automatic bar to employment in the government of Guam.

The judge suspended all jail time in her judgment but ordered that Taisipic stay away from school grounds and playgrounds, except when related to family or employment. This was in addition to other conditions.

"Can he be employed in the government of Guam today? Absolutely. Can he teach in a school? Absolutely. Can he teach in Rays of Hope? Absolutely. The only prevention that he has from teaching in GDOE at this point, is management," Terlaje said during her closing argument Tuesday.

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