ELECTED OFFICIAL SHOULD REPRESENT PUBLIC, NOT ACCUSED

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Jan. 5) - Despite his thoughts and statements to attempt to convince the public to the contrary, there is a definite conflict of interest in Sen. Randall Cunliffe representing his longtime friend and former Gov. Carl Gutierrez in a criminal case alleging theft of government property and services.

Senators are public servants. They represent the voters and the entire community. They work for the people of Guam. In a criminal case, it is the government - the people of Guam - vs. a defendant. An attorney can't represent the people while simultaneously representing a person with whom the people have a problem, especially in a case alleging theft of property from them, without there being a clear conflict of interest.

This is doubly the case with Cunliffe, because as a senator he has legislative oversight of the Office of the Attorney General, as well as over the court in which the case will be tried.

In the interest of what's right, our senators must always remove themselves from areas in which there is even an appearance of conflict of interest. There can't be even a perception that their public position has an influence over their personal or business interests

It would be wrong for a senator who owns a fleet of buses to be involved in decisions over awarding contracts for mass transit. It would be wrong for a senator who owns a car dealership to be involved in deciding from whom the government buys their vehicles.

You can't stand on different sides of the same fence at the same time. It doesn't matter how qualified, competent, well-liked or nice the senator is -- in those instances, any decisions they make can, and should, be called into question.

That's one reason why Public Defender is completely separate from the Office of the Attorney General - one represents individual people against the government, the latter represents the community against the individual. It wouldn't make any sense to have the same attorney work his hardest to prosecute an individual while simultaneously doing his utmost to exonerate that individual.

Every effort is made in legal proceedings to remove conflicts of interest. Judges can't preside over trials involving their relatives or close associates. Potential jurors who have a clear bias, either for or against a defendant, aren't seated on the jury in that case.

To avoid this obvious conflict of interest, and in the interest in doing what's right for this community, Cunliffe must either completely extract himself from any representation or interest in such representation of Gutierrez, or step down from his public office.

January 5, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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