Asst AG contends Court violated constitutional authority by ordering $25K payment
Assistant Attorney General Jay Sayles said the Court erred in issuing the amended order for the government to pay $25,000 to cover funeral costs for the owner of Pacific International Engineering, Warren Fisher.
Fisher’s company had previously been awarded (in October, 2010) $321,757 for breach of contract by ASG, which had failed to pay for construction services provided by PIE.
Sayles noted in his motion that given that the Trial Court had erred, it is appropriate for the government to ask the court for a motion for reconsideration, or to grant a new hearing.
“The court should review its remand decision regarding the amended order in aid of judgment that was issued on Tuesday, as the amended order ignores and contravenes the constitutional separation of powers,” says the motion.
“In light of these issues ASG requests that the court reconsider its Amended Order, or, in the alternative, grant a new hearing,” says the four-page motion.
On October 13, 2010 the court issued a judgment against the government for breach of contract in the amount of $321,757.82 with the interest of 6% annually, and since October the plaintiff has made multiple motions and other efforts to collect the judgment.
The motion states the most recent effort resulted in the instant Amended Order that directed ASG to provide the $25,000 check, by the close of business on Tuesday.
The government complied with the amended order to avoid being in contempt but now seeks to vacate the amended order as “it violates the American Samoa Constitution.”
Sayles in his motion explains there is an appropriation bill for the total judgment pending in the Fono, and an amended version is expected to be introduced in the next session, which would alter the funding source for the judgment.
According to Sayles, the trial court erred in issuing the amended order and the court exceeded its constitutional authority by ordering the government to issue un-appropriated funds, therefore the court should consider the amended order or — in the alternative — grant a new hearing.
The Assistant AG noted the American Samoa Legislature is the sole entity within the government that has the power to appropriate the funds of the American Samoa Government.
“The Revised Constitution of American Samoa mandates that Executive Branch may not obligate public funds in any manner without appropriation by the Legislature” says the motion.
Sayles noted that, in this matter, the amended order explicitly orders the government to pay $25,000 — however this is a direct allocation of funds by the judicial branch, and “it is a violation of the separation of powers between the different branches of ASG.”
On Tuesday a hearing was held following a motion filed by PIE attorney, Mark Ude for an aid of judgment motion to have the court grant part of the judgment, in order to assist Mrs. Siloi with her husband’s funeral. (See Wednesday’s Samoa News story for details.)