Governor asks LBJ board to immediately reinstate Popo
“Is this the type of management and leadership model being utilized to run the hospital?” was the question posed by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga to Sandra King, Chairperson of the LBJ Board in a strongly worded letter sent, regarding the sudden suspension of EMS Manager Galumalemana Fuapopo “Popo” Avegalio last week Thursday.The letter, dated Friday, Feb. 7 was copied to LBJ CEO Mike Gerstenberger, LBJ board members, the Lt. Governor, and Fiu Saelua, the governor's chief of staff, and delivered late Friday afternoon. Samoa News was able to get a copy of the letter.Governor Lolo noted that it was reported to him that Popo has been suspended on 30 days of employment with termination to follow.“Upon his return to his office (EMS) after a meeting I called, his (Popo's) office was locked and keys were changed.“I find this type of management behavior unacceptable and unimaginable in this day and age,” he wrote. “One of the administration’s governance pillars is equity and fair treatment of employees with their rights safe guarded and preserved,” the governor said.The letter further states, “It has also come to my attention that the employees with their rights are being trampled upon with fear tactics used to intimidate employees to blindly follow the will of the Chief Executive Officer.“Since when is an employee terminated because he responded to instruction issued by the Governor? Is this the type of management and leadership model being utilized to run the hospital?” he states.Lolo said that given there is no justifiable reason to take such drastic actions against the EMS Manager, he is asking the LBJ Board to immediately take steps to reinstate Popo to his normal duties and responsibilities“Mr. Popo Avegalio acted on my instruction,” said the Governor. The letter also informed the LBJ Chairperson to appear at the meeting to be held next Wednesday morning to discuss the future of the EMS.The governor asked that the names, position titles, employment status (career or contract) contract expiration date, salary, and years in the position for EMS employees, be provided for his review of the management workforce for the LBJ hospital.The governor also asked that the information be provided with the current EMS organizational chart at this Wednesday's meeting. BACKGROUNDLast week Thursday, Samoa News was informed that a meeting was called by the LBJ officials where LBJ CEO Mike Gerstenberger, COO Toaga Seumalo, Ana Hargett (LBJ Vice President of Human Resources) and Sa Mavaega (Vice President of Plant Services) were present. At the meeting the LBJ CEO informed EMS officials that Popo “has been placed on suspension for 30 days to be terminated, and his position will be advertised after the 30 days.”The same day, Mavaega, who is also Maintenance Manager and oversees EMS, issued a memorandum appointing Soloi Lagoo as Acting Manager for EMS, effective until the Manager’s Position is advertised 30 days from the date of the letter. In the meantime, Samoa News was told by Anna Hargett VPHR that the LBJ Board was meeting yesterday with LBJ officials regarding the suspension of the EMS Manager — as of 3 p.m. yesterday, they were still meeting.Hargett also told Samoa News we incorrectly identified Mavaega as Vice President of Physician Services, in Monday’s and last Friday’s story. He is Vice President of Plant Services, she said. We apologize to our readers for our mistake.