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Confirmation hearings for four director nominees set

reporters@samoanews.com

Nominees for directorship positions for four ASG departments are scheduled for confirmation hearings this week in the Senate and House of Representatives. The nominees are Le’i Sonny Thompson for the Department of Human Resources, Dr. Ruth S. Matagi Tofiga for the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Falema’o M. “Phil” Pili for Treasurer of American Samoa, and Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau for the Department of Education.

Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau

Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Scholarships Rep. Vaetasi Tuumolimoli S. Moliga has set a confirmation hearing for Dr. Hunkin-Finau for Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 at 8:30 a.m.

Vaetasi has called upon the entire House membership to be present for the hearing to confirm Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau as the Director of Education, saying that each district has school(s) and therefore, every faipule should be in attendance.

On the Senate side, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaalii has scheduled Dr. Hunkin-Finau for a confirmation hearing in the upper chamber 30 minutes later on the same day at 9 am.

In a Jan. 14 letter to House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau from Gov. Lolo Moliga, the Governor submitted the name of his nomination for DOE director and urged the Fono leaders and their colleagues to confirm Dr. Hunkin-Finau as the director of the Department of Education.

According to Lolo, Dr. Hunkin-Finau recently acted as the co-director of the American Samoa Department of Education Research and Development Project. She is also a former dean and president of the American Samoa Community College, and has taught at the high school, college, and university level.

Dr. Hunkin-Finau holds a doctorate degree in education from the University of Hawaii - Manoa and according to Lolo, “her passion for educating students in American Samoa and helping them achieve academically is evident in the career path she has chosen.”

Dr. Hunkin-Finau started as a teacher at Leone High School and since then, she has served in various capacities in the ASDOE, including positions as a school administrator, coordinator, program director, deputy director, and acting director.

Lolo said of Dr. Hunkin-Finau, “Her experiences at the American Samoa Department of Education have made her well aware of the challenges it faces. She is committed to improving the quality of education in the schools of American Samoa and to ensuring that our children succeed academically.”

Le’i Sonny Thompson

The second confirmation hearing has been scheduled by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Human Resources/Human and Social Services, Sen. Magalei Logovi’i for Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 8 am. to confirm Governor Lolo’s nomination of HTC Le’i Sonny Thompson as the Department of Human Resources director.

That same day at 8:30 am, Le’i will appear before the House Committee on Government Operations chaired by Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen.

In a January 15 letter to the Fono leaders, Governor Lolo submitted his nomination of Le’i and wrote: “HTC Le’i’s service to his family, village, country and to the people of American Samoa, coupled with his leadership, educational background and professional experience make him an excellent choice to manage and direct the Department of Human Resources.”

Le’i served as the director of the Department of Administrative Services during the Togiola/Faoa administration, at which time he had charge over the AP Lutali Executive Office Building’s Special Program, and the Job and Growth Act Program.

He holds a baccalaureate degree in education from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree in Human Resources and Management Development from Chapman University. Le’i is a retired Air Force Major, who was formerly the director of personnel at the Los Angeles Space and Missile System Center and the Chief of Personnel and Readiness Officer at the Little Rock Air Force Base where he was responsible for the training and professional development of thousands of military personnel.

Falema’o M. ‘Phil” Pili

Governor Lolo’s nomination for Treasurer of American Samoa Falema’o M. “Phil” Pili is scheduled for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and chairman Sen. Laolagi Fonoti Savali Vaeao on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 8 am.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Fatulegae’e Mauga has scheduled Falema’o for a confirmation hearing in the lower chamber for Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 11 am.

In his letter to House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and Senate President Gaoteote Palaie Tofau submitting his nomination of Falema’o, Governor Lolo wrote, “Mr. Pili is a long-time, faithful public servant who has a proven record of sound financial management. He possesses the skills and judgment required of the position I have appointed him to. I ask for your support and urge you and your colleagues to confirm Mr. Falema’o M. ‘Phil” Pili as the Treasurer of the American Samoa Government.”

Since 2010, Falema’o has been the executive director of the Territorial Office of Fiscal Reform (TOFR). In his capacity he has had financial management authority over a number of federal programs including FEMA funds for disaster related projects, capital improvement projects funds from the US Department of Interior, airport improvement funds from the Federal Aviation Administration, and funds available through the State Small Business Credit Initiative and the US Department of Treasury.

“He was also instrumental in selecting and implementing upgrades to TOFR’s financial systems and is an expert in governmental accounting,” Lolo wrote.

Prior to his tenure at TOFR, Falema’o was the Chief Financial Officer at the American Samoa Community College where he oversaw all college financials and received an unqualified opinion (where auditors had no reservations with respect to any of ASCC’s financial statements) for three consecutive years.

Falema’o was also the Chief Financial Officer for the LBJ Tropical Medical Center and is a former member of the House of Representatives.

Dr. Ruth Matagi Tofiga

The fourth confirmation hearing has been scheduled for the Governor’s nomination of Dr. Ruth Matagi Tofiga as director of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources by the Chairman of the Senate Rules/Marine Wildlife Committee Sen.Nua Saoluaga for Friday, January 25, 2013 at 8 am

Chairman of the House Committee on Government Operations Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen has scheduled Tofiga for a confirmation hearing in the House that same day at 8:30 am.

Of his nomination, Governor Lolo wrote to the Fono leadership, “With strong leadership skills, a penchant to achieve, and a broad background in teaching science and biology at the secondary and tertiary institutions, I know that Dr. Matagi-Tofiga is well suited to serve as the director of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources.”

Currently, Tofiga is the acting assistant director of the Teacher Quality Division of the American Samoa Department of Education. She holds a baccalaureate degree in biology from Loyola Marymount University, a master’s degree in education from the University of Hawaii - Manoa, and a doctoral degree in education with specialization in leadership in educational administration from Capella University.

Formerly, Tofiga was the program director of Teacher Certification and the principal at Tafuna High School. She taught biology classes at the high school, college, and university level.

Other House hearings

The Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works, Rep. Atualevao Gafatasi Afalava has scheduled acting Public Works director Faleosina Faiai Voight to appear before the House next Tuesday for a hearing aimed at discussing the current road conditions and what plans are in store for the territory’s pothole-ridden highways.



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