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By Valerie Lynn M. Maigue

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 22) – Talofofo Mayor Pedro Paulino will be able to continue the rest of his term after attempts to oust him failed in yesterday's recall election on Guam.

Nine hundred eight votes in favor of the recall were required to remove Paulino from office, but according to the Guam Election Commission, only 583 people voted to recall the mayor while 308 voted to retain him. The results were certified around 10:15 last night at Talofofo Elementary School, where Guam's first recall election took place.

"I'm extremely happy and I'm glad (the election) went through," Paulino said after the election results were first announced around 9:45 p.m.

He said regardless of how people voted, they were given the opportunity to speak out.

"This has been the longest month ever," he said. "Now I can continue working and I can move on with my plans. Let bygones be bygones. I do not hold any grudges."

Since July last year, Talofofo resident Ben Pablo has led village residents in an effort to remove Paulino from office.

The mayor has said the recall effort was personal and stems from his marital problems, which forced him to temporarily reside outside of Talofofo. Guam law requires mayors to live in the villages they serve.

But his opponents, who gathered hundreds of signatures to hold the special election, have cited concerns over the condition of village recreational facilities and the junk yard that grew behind his office.

Close to 900 voters from Talofofo headed to the polls yesterday, about half of the 1,759 voters who were eligible to vote in the recall election.

Guam Election Commission Executive Director Gerry Taitano said the recall election went fairly smoothly.

A bill to allow the recall of mayors and vice mayors was approved by senators and the governor last year. The law sets a threshold of at least two-thirds of the number of people voting for that particular office during the last election.

The election commission initially said 459 votes, or two-thirds of the 688 votes cast for Paulino during the last mayoral election, were needed to recall him.

But on Wednesday, the commission said the correct threshold was at least two-thirds of the 1,363 ballots cast for mayor in the village during the 2004 election, or 908 votes. Those numbers were based on the research and advice of the commission's legal counsel, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case in the issue.

Pablo said he plans to pursue the issue over the last-minute change in the approved threshold.

"All these additional numbers were given to us by word of mouth two to three days before the election," he said. "How were we to know that we needed all these additional votes?"

May 22, 2006

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