HR Director defends admin proceedings in cases of convicted govt employees
Human Resources Director Sonny Thompson, says it’s the duty of each ASG Department Head to report to DHR once an employee has been criminally charged and/or convicted in a criminal matter. The explanation from the HR Director came in response to Samoa News queries, following comments made by Chief Justice Michael Kruse, pointing out that convicted felons are employed by the government.
Last week Kruse raised this issue when handing down sentencing for Lizza Gaotala, a teacher who misused PTA (Parent Teacher Association) funds when she was a Secretary at Samoana High School. Kruse pointed out to the prosecutor that ASG employees who are convicted felons for “moral turpitude” —such people should not be employed by the government. He noted that these people think they are immune from theft and they are still eligible to remain working for the government.
In the meantime, the HR Director stated while they maintain distinction and respect between the three branches of government, they must work together to identify and improve processes, wherein our Attorney General’s Office; DPS and the court together with each employee's department informs DHR on matters related to those who have committed crimes and been found guilty under the law "so we may take appropriate administrative proceedings."
“In cases where civil or criminal charges were filed and resulted in subsequent convictions that occurred in the private sector or setting; we (DHR) have no way on knowing. It is the duty of each ASG Department Head to report such matters to us."
"Unlike when each person applies for a job, I request to the Office of Homeland Security that a background investigation be conducted. And, when HR receives information that the applicant has a criminal record, both the member and the department will be notified and proper actions are taken accordingly,” said Thompson.
He further noted that in cases where an ASG employee committed a violation and was subsequently criminally charged, that person is eligible and shall afford the due process which they are entitled to, and leave with pay unless administrative proceedings where demotion, suspension or termination happen simultaneously as a result of the criminal charges.
“In other words if an ASG employee is charged with a criminal charge, while waiting his day in court, HR can start administrative proceedings at the same time.
"If both the department head and I find it necessary and appropriate to terminate an employee because of the criminal charges we can do that immediately while the criminal prosecution is pending or take its course," stated Thompson.
"It would not be appropriate for us to sit idle waiting for the criminal case to be finalized before we act administratively. These are two different processes afforded to us by law."
He further elaborated that under Title VII of the American Samoa Code Annotated (ASCA) in reference to “Termination of Employment – Disciplinary Measures”; and Title IV of the American Samoa Administrative Code (ASAC) are administrative rulings relative to the same.
“Under ASCA Title VII, Chapter 08, Section 7.0801 “employees in the career service may be demoted, suspended, or removed for below standard job performance, misconduct on the job, misconduct off the job which reflects adversely on the government, conviction of a felony, sentence to prison for 30 days or more upon conviction of a crime, or violation of standards established administratively which govern employee conduct and deportment, including but not limited to, the proper use and penalty for misuse of government property”.
It is very clear that those in the career service (or contract for that matter) may be demoted, suspended or removed for:
1 Substandard or below standard job performance
2 Misconduct on the job
3 Misconduct off the job which reflects adversely on the government
4 Conviction of a felony
5 Sentence to prison for 30 days or more upon conviction of a crime
6 Violation of administrative established standards which govern employee conduct and deportment, including but not limited to misuse of government property (note: this covers misuse of government vehicles.)
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