The Story of the Ave Maria Grand Knight


Dear State Deputy Douglas Murray,

This is a true story. On February 11, 2010, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I made the life-long decision to run for political office and applied for candidacy status. Surprisingly to many, the office happens to be the United States Congress in the House of Representatives. Since I am the Grand Knight of Ave Maria Oratory Council Number 14697, this should not be a problem since the council and the Knights of Columbus support my stand on pro-life issues. However, to my dismay, I find that there are members in the Knights of Columbus that do not support pro-life Catholics. Here’s my story.

I know fully well the rules about partisan politics in the Knights of Columbus. I am a Fourth degree Knight. I aspire to patriotism; I am a Marine Corps retired Captain with prior enlisted experience and a combat veteran. I know that political issues need to be articulated, not parties or candidates solicited. I would not and have not tried to solicit my party or candidacy in any of the council’s functions or activities.

It is relevant to know that the current term of Grand Knight office goes from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010, which is a fraternal year. I took over from SK Ernest Mitchell, who resigned because of an arm injury. In retrospect and interestingly, my bid for my first political office was in December 2009. I wanted to apply for the vacant seat number 5 opened by the retirement of Richard Calabrese from the Collier County School Board in Florida. An appointment was needed by the Governor of Florida Charlie Crist to complete the one year vacancy remaining of the four-year term of office. I was one of twenty-one (21) candidates who applied for this vacancy seat. I believe I am a viable candidate, as I had spoken against Richard Calabrese, a Catholic, who voted for the first sex education policy in the Collier County Public School System. This sex education includes teaching contraceptive practices to children as early as sixth grade. Mr. Calabrese’s vote was critical for this to pass, and although I argued as effectively as I could, he was able to pass it with a 3-2 vote by the school board.

Florida House Representative Matt Hudson had interviewed me as well as all the other candidates for the vacancy. He selected me to a short list of six (6) out of twenty-one (21) and submitted the finalist list to Governor Charlie Crist for interviews in January 2010. Although I was high in the Governor’s regard, he selected Roy Terry over me. One learns much more by the selection process in a political appointment after the process than before it. The lesson for me was that Governor Crist worried more about the teachers’ union that was behind Roy Terry than it was behind me. The teachers’ union is radically left-leaning, and Governor Crist did not mind that, although I am highly educated, a military veteran, businessman, leader, teacher, and the principal of my own home school. And, he graciously appreciated these attributes about me. But, why would he select a man inexperienced in public education without the backing of the teachers’ union?

I decided not to run for the District 5 Seat, four (4) year term, of the Collier County School Board in August 2010, and instead, my political thoughts soared to a political office where I could make a difference and at the same time be accessible. The difference is in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the accessibility occurred when Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart announced on February 11, 2010 that he would not run again for the Florida Congressional District 25 office. On this day, I made the decision to run for Congress in this district. Since I live in Ave Maria, Florida, on February 15, 2010 I made an announcement to run for this office at a coffee retail establishment in Ave Maria. I call this the mini-Tea Party convention because representatives of the Tea Party assembled and invited me to attend and speak.

Within days after this announcement, an extremely negative web site with my complete name in the domain name went up in the Internet. To say the least, this web site slandered and libeled my name, my wife’s name, and my family’s name and harassed my family. I discussed this web site with Knight Robert E. Campbell who replied that he does not want me in politics, he is investigating my business and family financial history, and he believes that I hurt Chelsea Allan of the By The Way of The Family Bookstore in Ave Maria. Knight Robert E. Campbell rendered a solution to my political problem that in his words “greenmail [sic] money” should be paid to Chelsea Allan to insure that I have election political success in August 2010. He offered to give me the money. (Is this starting to read corruption?) His idea of an investigation is inspired by the discovery of my past debts and judgments that are either appealed, paid, or exonerated in some way, but are a matter of public record. Individual public records were listed on this web site. I am a businessman in construction and insurance and have my share of legal business risks.

Upon the advice by a trustee, SK Ernest Mitchell, I approached the District Deputy (DD) in charge of our council, Ralph Balzarano, concerning the actions of Knight Robert Campbell. I had gathered evidence against him that indicated he was doing two clear inappropriate actions of a Knight in our council. He visited some officers of the council and advised them that I was a fraud and told them not to volunteer support in my political grassroots campaign such as assisting me in the work to gather signed candidate petitions and other volunteer support. (The candidate petitions are legal, necessary, and sufficient to qualify me for office since I do not have the funds to pay for a qualifying fee.) Now, let us review partisan politics at this point. Grassroots campaign political work is not partisan politics in the Knights of Columbus; it is work done by men who are Knights for men who are Knights. Men who are Knights are involved in faithful citizenship according to our right and freedom to practice our faith. Friends of mine who are Knights may exercise their support in my campaign because I am precisely a pro-life candidate for Congress. I asked DD Ralph Balzarano to approach Knight Robert Campbell to ask him to correct his inappropriate actions or face possible disciplinary charges. DD Ralph Balzarano agreed that he would investigate the matter with a letter to Knight Robert Campbell and a personal visit. He indicated he would return with a report within one week. I made it clear to DD Ralph Balzarano that disciplinary action was needed, and he acknowledged that he would be involved directly in that matter.

But, the DD Ralph Balzarano is of a different mind-set. In our meeting of understanding of what to do with Knight Robert Campbell, he stated that the council should be disbanded and incorporated into the Ave Maria University Council (a college council) and pinioned that I should change my political goal to a goal of educating youth. (He meant that I should get out of politics altogether since I do not have a network.) That did not go over well with me, and, at that time I kept composure and rectitude to respond that was not a good idea for me, although I know where this comes from. In our place, this comes from the president of Ave Maria University, Nicholas J. Healy, who is also a member in our council. He has attended our meetings infrequently. Read this statement or reads my lips, whatever is more appropriate for one to understand, THE AVE MARIA ORATORY COUNCIL SHOULD NOT BE DISBANDED AND INCORPORATED INTO THE COLLEGE COUNCIL! It is irrational for a family council to split up and be led by a student council. And, I do not really think a college council would want a bunch of older men leading them. My high regard for the DD Ralph Balzarano is now waning; by meeting with him I actually instigated an avalanche against the goal that I had in mind to unify the Knight Robert Campbell, and more problem with disciplinary action is looming. I am now memorizing issues that need to be worked out.

It was not 24 hours before DD Ralph Balzarano wanted to speak with me. We met at SK Ernest Mitchell’s home, and he wanted a private meeting with me. He used the planned meeting I had set up at Mr. Mitchell’s home with a few officers to go over some detail missing on the Fraternal Activity Audit Report. DD Ralph Balzarano proceeded to inform me that I had to resign from the Grand Knight office, or if I did not resign, he would be forced to unilaterally depose me from the Grand Knight office. Not really understanding what he was telling me as he was supposed to return to me with advice on what to do with Knight Robert Campbell, he instead was telling me in effect that to solve the problem that I would have to resign because I am the problem, and to resign would solve the problem. I asked him for witness members who spoke against me as causing the problem. At first he would not name anyone. So, I named men down the line, and he answered that they all supported me. I delayed on the two men who I thought were calling for my resignation. Finally, I named the last two men in the council who I thought were calling for my resignation: Robert Campbell and Nicholas Healy. DD Ralph Balzarano agreed that the above two men wanted me out of the Grand Knight office. I asked for the grounds for this call. DD Ralph Balzarano stated that there were two reasons: (1) that I created disunity in the council, and (2) that I used council functions and activities for political purposes, i.e., partisan politics. I have already responded that I have never used the council functions or activities for partisan politics. With regard to disunity, I do not believe I ever tried to do that either. On the other hand, I believe that Knights Robert Campbell and Nicholas Healy need disciplinary action according to our constitution and by-laws. And, I would have to call for DD Ralph Balzarano’s resignation because he does not know how to properly conduct an investigation. DD Ralph Balzarano was influenced by powers of the Ave Maria University president, Nicholas J. Healy, who is acting in a way that is unbecoming of a president of a Catholic university.

My purpose is to be a good leader, help families, assist and protect the Church, and not cause vitriol in our council. I just decided to run for political office.

A formal investigation needs to be conducted by the Florida State Deputy. And, I call for this. The outcome may cause for my dismissal, which I am glad to do, however let us be careful to call ourselves Knights, while being indifferent or doing the wrong action. I am ashamed of the Knights of Columbus, when they are indifferent or when they do the wrong action. I hope it works, because it is not measuring up right now.

I went through the proper channel. Thank you for the attention to this matter.

Fraternally,

James Patrick Guerrero

GK, Ave Maria Oratory Council 14697

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