Ex-PSS commissioner asks court to reconsider dismissal of her claims

Former Public School System commissioner Cynthia I. Deleon Guerrero has asked the federal court to reconsider its decision to dismiss her claims in the lawsuit she filed against the Board of Education and its members over her termination.

Deleon Guerrero, through counsel Brien Sers Nicholas, asserted that the manifest errors of law in her case will make her suffer injustice.

Nicholas pointed out that Deleon Guerrero is entitled to due process as she has a “property interest” in her employment.

Similarly, Nicholas said, the BOE members’ public statement against Deleon Guerrero also stigmatized her name, entitling her to due process of law.

Last May 30, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona dismissed with prejudice Deleon Guerrero’s two claims: violation of her due process rights and conspiracy to violate her due process rights.

Dismissal with prejudice means Deleon Guerrero can no longer re-file the claims. Manglona directed the clerk of court to close the case.

Citing U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Manglona said to plead a due process claim involving harm to one’s reputation, a plaintiff must also plead a deprivation of a separate liberty or property interest and that the state has changed or terminated that constitutionally protected interest.

Accordingly, Deleon Guerrero cannot assert a due process claim based solely on her reputation, as it is not a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest, said Manglona in granting the motion to dismiss filed by BOE and its members.

Furthermore, Manglona said, the alleged harm to Deleon Guerrero’s reputation does not satisfy the level of stigma that the state must inflict to bring a due process claim.

In Deleon Guerrero’s motion for reconsideration on Monday, Nicholas said the judge’s reliance only on Deleon Guerrero being an “at will” employee ignores the mandate that the plaintiff “shall be appointed by the BOE for a term of four years.” This mandate, Nicholas said, is what gives Deleon Guerrero her property interest in her employment.

The lawyer said the fact that Deleon Guerrero was an “at will” employee does not take away her entitlements to the benefits of a “term of four years” of employment.

Nicholas said as a result of this public statement that Deleon Guerrero supposedly did not get along with BOE members, her employment was terminated.

Last March 30, Manglona remanded to the Superior Court Deleon Guerrero’s two claims—wrongful termination and breach of contract.

Deleon Guerrero is suing the BOE and its members for terminating her as the PSS commissioner last October. She is demanding $350,000 in damages.

According to Deleon Guerrero, her termination was done in retaliation for her questioning BOE’s micromanagement of PSS and her refusal of a request for an unlawful transfer of $175,000 to the board’s account.
BOE has denied the allegations.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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