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THE Guam Legislature’s municipal affairs committee yesterday conducted a public hearing on Bill 241, which would provide for a special election to fill any vacancy among Guam mayors or vice mayors.

Sen. Rory Respicio, the sponsor of the bill, said that with vacancies at the mayoralty and vice mayoralty level subject to the decision of only a handful of people, Bill 241 would “uphold the will of the people” by allowing a special election provided that such vacancy or vacancies occur 240 days or more before the date of the next general election for mayors and vice mayors.

During the public hearing, bill co-sponsor Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes said in villages where there are no vice mayors to assume the mayoralty position, the bill requires the vacancy to be filled by a majority vote of the municipal planning council, subject to the consent of the Legislature.

Respicio said the current system calls for vacancies to be filled by the appointment of the governor. He said this may not express the actual will of the people of that respective village.

Currently, the law requires that any vacancy in the office of the mayor or the vice mayor be filled for the unexpired term by the governor after soliciting the nonbinding recommendations of the village municipal planning council and the consent of the legislature.

Angel Sablan, Mayors’ Council of Guam executive director, said the essence of the bill has been discussed back and forth among different mayors and vice mayors.

"There are some mayors asking if they don't finish their term this year, what would happen to their village? As we all know, it is an election year and some mayors are looking for other opportunities," he said.

Not willing

Although the law provides for the vice mayors to move up should a vacancy occur, Sablan said some are not willing to assume the mayorship.

"They just want to remain as vice mayors. What is in the law right now is the municipal planning council of that village would recommend a name to the governor for appointment as an acting mayor or the governor does not have to stick to that list nor does he have to accept any of those nominees vetted by the municipal planning council. He can always name somebody on his own," Sablan said.

Although this would be an additional election cost, Sablan emphasized that it is the fairest way to fill these vacant positions.

"Nobody else but the villagers know who is best and who has been working hard in their village," he said.

Meanwhile, Respicio has requested the mayors' council to provide the committee with a resolution indicating support or nonsupport of the bill to guide senators as the measure moves into the legislative process.