An employee at the sub-office of the Election and Boundaries Department (EBD) on San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Marilee Squires, has been asked to go on administrative leave and faces formal suspension from her duties as the investigation of an incident on the island this past Tuesday night, in which an aspirant for the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), Dr. Severo Guerrero, Jr., was found inside the office, begins.
Amandala understands that around 7:00 p.m., Guerrero was seen inside the office, seated in front of a computer, with several pieces of paper identified as voter registration lists spread out in front of him, and appeared to be alternately writing and looking at the computer.
Guerrero was eventually escorted from the office a few minutes later, after some of his opponents showed up questioning what he was doing in the office, but in his wake he leaves a host of mostly unanswered questions as to exactly what he was doing in the office at that late hour, on whose behalf, and with whose consent.
According to the San Pedro Sun, whose office is next door to the Department’s, Guerrero claims he was called in to assist the elections officer “with a computer problem.” But according to today’s edition of the UDP newspaper, the Guardian, Guerrero is a dental surgeon, commercial fisherman and Justice of the Peace. It said nothing about him being a computer technician.
Today, chair of the EBC, Alberto August, confirmed to Amandala that upon receiving complaints of the incident on Wednesday, he contacted Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Josephine Tamai, who had not been told of what transpired, and asked her to begin an investigation and at its conclusion, issue a report to him.
August pointed out that legally, he as Chairman can do no more than that, as the Commission oversees the conduct of elections and election business, but the day-to-day affairs are tasked to the Department under the CEO.
The EBD office phone was busy when we called twice late this afternoon, but we have been provided with a report via email from Tamai to the members of the EBC, in which she states that the “issue in San Pedro is not being taken lightly by the department.”
She goes on to state that after reviewing a report by Squires and speaking with her in Belize City this morning, where the officer reportedly admitted that “she was wrong for having the person [Guerrero] in the office,” she saw the “urgent need to investigate further,” and is now awaiting further information from two EBD officers sent out to the island on Wednesday.
The CEO said that she has submitted to the Ministry of the Public Service, for reference to the Public Service Commission, an immediate request for Squires’ suspension during the investigation, and informed her of that.
The CEO also promises that the officer will not be sent to another EBD office, as “this may further create reasons for concern.”
Vision Inspired by the People (VIP) has called for Guerrero to step down and for a formal investigation for “possible tampering with the San Pedro voters’ list,” and registered its concern that “the integrity of the voters’ list may have been compromised and confidential information retrieved. Local officials for the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and independent Mayoral candidate, Melanie Paz, have also spoken out against the candidate’s actions.
Other late information to us is that the PUP have filed a claim for judicial review in the Supreme Court against CEO Tamai’s refusal of a request by Corozal Southeast area representative and PUP Deputy Leader Florencio Marin, Jr., to peruse the binders for his division in light of the ongoing registration/citizenship rush taking place across the country. The Department claims that it cannot offer the proper supervision such a request entails due to work related to voter registration, which ends tomorrow, Friday.