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Late on the afternoon of December 10, Guerra wrote, "Mej¡a informed me that I was fired, and either I signed a letter of 'VOLUNTARY RESIGNATION' or he would not give me a dismissal payment."
Guerra reluctantly resigned her position.
Mej¡a immediately appointed his 23-year-old niece, Silvia Allen, to Guerra's job.
@body:Jorge Mej¡a did not do well in the initial round of interviews conducted by Commerce Department officials searching for a director for Arizona's Mexico City trade office. State procurement records show Mej¡a barely scraped into the upper third of the pack of 60 applicants for the position.
But sometime between that first impression and a second round of interviews, Mej¡a's stock soared with Bigg, Guthrie and two other Arizona trade officials reviewing bids to run the Mexico City trade office. Suddenly, Mej¡a, who initially was rated no better than average, was among the finalists for the position.
Once making that leap, it was clear sailing for Mej¡a, whose scorecard racked up the most points in each succeeding interview round. It's unclear why Mej¡a was so highly rated. His business and educational background is far from impressive when compared to those of other applicants for the position, several of whom had advanced degrees in international trade and extensive business experience.
Mej¡a's educational history is particularly thin. He claimed to have graduated from a teaching university in Mexico, but couldn't produce a diploma. He told Commerce officials in an August 2 letter that he was unable to obtain a copy of the diploma from the Ministry of Education because the agency was "undergoing a substantial reorganization."
Commerce officials tried to confirm his graduation independently, but were unable to do so, state records show.
Mej¡a did produce another diploma while documenting his accomplishments for state officials. The diploma was awarded for attending a one-week course at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa, and is graced by the likeness of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During his stay in America's heartland, Mej¡a studied such subjects as "Vedic Mathematics and Financial Management: Do Less and Accomplish More."
In an abbreviated r‚sum‚ Mej¡a circulated with state officials, Mej¡a also claimed to have "postgraduated from Stanford University (Advanced Management College)" and "postgraduated in management from UCLA." Neither Stanford nor UCLA has any record of Mej¡a attending the universities, and there is no such thing as the "Advanced Management College" at Stanford.
(Mej¡a did attend a three-month management-development program at UCLA in 1981. He also spent a week at Stanford's Sierra Camp in 1984, taking 60 hours of management courses.)
Mej¡a's employment background cannot be called overpowering, either. For the last four years, he has operated a consulting business out of the apartment he shares with his wife. Mej¡a admitted in a videotaped interview with Bigg that he wasn't making much money from the firm.
The consulting business was started in July 1989, a month after Mej¡a left his position as a divisional vice president for Maritz Travel Company, where he worked for eight years. He briefly held jobs with American Express Travel Co. and the Americana Coral Beach Hotel.
Despite his apparent lack of academic and business credentials, Mej¡a caught the eye of Commerce officials by making what they considered a strong personal impression and developing a solid business plan for running the office, state procurement records indicate.
But he was offered the job before Commerce officials had even finished conducting their review of his past employment, Commerce Department records show.
@body:Exactly how Mej¡a fits into the Symington-Bishop relationship is unclear. And the governor's connection to Bishop, the Lake Oswego, Oregon, businessman, is also a mystery at this point.
Symington and members of his staff refuse to discuss the governor's ties to Bishop and his energy firm. (Although there appear to be no direct business links between Bishop and Symington, the governor has had a long-standing interest in the energy sector. One of the first companies he formed was the Symington Oil & Gas Co., now known as Wicklow Management Co.)
Bishop has also declined to return New Times' phone calls. Mej¡a cut short an interview in Mexico City before the Bishop visit could be discussed.
It is clear that Symington has helped Bishop meet with top Mexican officials more than once. Last July, the governor wrote a letter to Sonoran Governor Manlio Fabio Beltrones, urging him to meet with Bishop to discuss construction of a gas-fired electric generating plant.
Documents turned over to New Times by the Governor's Office, however, raise as many questions as they answer about the Symington-Bishop-Mej¡a troika.
In one instance, six pages of a letter faxed to the Governor's Office from Bishop's company--a letter sent five days after the Salinas meeting--are missing. Douglas Cole, the governor's press secretary, says those pages just aren't in the state file.
If the missing pages are anything like the last page, however, the letter must have been a fascinating document.
On the bottom of the eighth page is a copy of the $3,306 check from Bishop to Jorge Mej¡a. The check supposedly was for translation services. Bishop, it seems, had arranged for Mej¡a to translate several books given to him by Mexican officials.