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BOE ‘mixes apples and oranges,’ says lawyer for former PSS chief

THE Board of Education members’ argument, at best, mixes “apples and oranges,” according to, Brien Sers Nicholas, the lawyer for former Education Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero.

She sued the board for terminating her  four-year contract a year after hiring her.

Cyndi Lorenza Ilisari Deleon Guerrero

 Sers Nicholas said the BOE “mixed” Deleon Guerrero’s property interest with that of her liberty interest.

He said Deleon Guerrero’s property interest lies in her four-year employment contract, and her liberty interest lies in her good name that she has worked very hard to achieve.

Last month, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona dismissed with prejudice Deleon Guerrero’s lawsuit, saying that the plaintiff failed to show that the defendants violated a clearly established right. “With prejudice” means that the lawsuit cannot be filed again.

Deleon Guerrero has asked the court for reconsideration which the BOE, through its legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu, opposed.

 Mocanu said Deleon Guerrero’s contract for four years and the accompanying statute created a term “limit” on employment, not a guarantee of the same.  “In other words, the four-year term is a ceiling not a floor.” Both the contract and the statute contemplated her possible removal prior to the expiration of her term, he added.

Mocanu reiterated that Deleon Guerrero was an “at-will” employee.

According to Sers Nicholas, it was the BOE members who did not get along with the former education commissioner because “she would not bow to their illegal requests for money from PSS.”

He said the position of commissioner of education “is prestigious and not just anyone can occupy it, to say the least. So, for anyone to occupy such a position only to be accused of being a person not able to work with others is a stigma that denies that person the honor and respect that got her the commissioner’s position in the first place.”

Sers Nicholas said Deleon Guerrero was more than entitled to a hearing, prior to her termination, “to defend herself against such a stigma publicly bestowed on her by the defendants.”

Sers Nicholas asked the court to “correct” its ruling to favor Deleon Guerrero, because if not “she will suffer manifest injustice as there exist manifest errors of law in the case.”

Deleon Guerrero filed her lawsuit in Superior Court on Jan. 18, 2018 and named as defendants BOE Chairwoman MaryLou Ada and members Janice A. Tenorio, Herman T. Guerrero, Florine M. Hofschneider and Herman M. Atalig.

But the defendants, through their legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu, moved the lawsuit to the district court, saying it alleged a federal question and violations of federal statutes.

In dismissing the lawsuit, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona remanded to Superior Court Deleon Guerrero’s breach-of-contract and wrongful-termination claims.