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Governor says “no” to ASPA board amendment — again

fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has again vetoed Fono approved legislation which seeks to amend the statute that allows the American Samoa Power Authority board of director members to continue to serve after their terms have expired.

Current law states that an incumbent board member may continue to serve after the expiration of a term until a successor is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

The Fono bill — which originated from the Senate — deletes this provision and provides a new one which states that any “incumbent board member who is not reappointed and resubmitted to the Legislature for confirmation prior to the expiration of his term or within 90-days thereafter shall then be deemed resigned from the board and may no longer continue to serve.”

In an Apr. 4 letter to the Fono leadership, Togiola says he has vetoed this bill which is nearly the same as the one he vetoed in November 2010. He said the “only substantive difference” between the two bills is that instead of deeming ASPA board members resigned 60 days after the expiration of terms (under the first bill), the new bill deems ASPA board members resigned after 90 days.

“With up to four and half months between regular sessions of the legislature, the 90-day period for ASPA board members to continue to serve after their terms expire creates an unreasonable risk that vacancies on the ASPA board will be created,” the governor explained.

And with existing law requiring that two board members be from off-island and that the board need only meet four times a year, “the proposed law does not merely risk vacancies on the ASPA board, it virtually assures them,” he said.

“It is also greatly concerned that the bill mandates incumbent board members’ resignation and expressly prohibits them from continuing to serve,” he said. “In cases where the Fono is not in session, incumbent board members whose terms expired as described in the bill could not even be considered for recess appointments.”

“This point is particularly salient, as the bill makes no provision for current incumbent board members,” said.

If this new bill were to take effect today, the ASPA board would immediately be unable to constitute a quorum, he said, adding that non-incumbent successors could be appointed, but until all board members were duly confirmed by the Fono, the ASPA board “would be in flux”.

The board decisions “could only be tentative since a negative confirmation vote from either house on any or all successor board members would require further changes to the membership of the board,” the governor explained.

He said such “needless turmoil is avoided by the existing statutory mandate” of ASCA 15.0103(b) that allows incumbent board members to continue to serve until a successor is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Fono.

“The harm caused to the public by an ASPA board that is hampered by instability and uncertainty because it cannot predict the outcome of its member’s confirmation hearings and thus cannot confidentially fulfill the duties prescribed by law, outweighs any harm caused by any incumbent board members continuing to serve after the expiration of their terms,” he explained.

In closing the governor said he hopes that “we can work together to finally bring resolution to this matter.”

The terms for ASPA board chairman Asaua Fuimaono and board member Va'a Sokelati are current, while terms for board members Steve Felte, Fanene Morris Scanlan and Norman Okamura have long expired. Felte and Okamura are the two off-island board members.



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