Legal issues impede expansion of Industrial Park
A Fagaima family is seeking $5 million in compensation for certain parcels of land within the Daniel K. Inouye Industrial Park, also known as the Tafuna Industrial Park, and the family’s claim to the land has resulted in ASG losing federal funding for expansion of the government owned park, which is overseen by the Commerce Department.
The compensation amount was revealed in DOC’s first quarter performance report for fiscal year 2014, covering the period of Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2013. The Fagaima family's claim to land within the industrial park was cited in the third quarter report for FY 2013 by DOC, but didn’t reveal the amount sought by the family.
In the FY 2014 first quarter report, DOC says the most important pending legal matter for the Industrial Park deals with the Fagaima family's claim “to the title of certain parcels” within the park, and this issue “has already cost American Samoa close to $5 million in federal monies toward the upgrading and rehabilitation of several roads in the park.”
DOC says that it is due to the pending legal claim that federal agencies such as the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) were forced to rescind the awarding of funds until such time when the matter has been resolved in court.
“Recently, the Fagaima family submitted a proposal to ASG for compensation [for the land] to the tune of $5 million,” DOC said. “In return, ASG and the Fono have assured the family that they will meet and get back to them.”
(A handful of lawmakers contacted by Samoa News last week said they were not aware of this compensation request until they read the performance reports for the first quarter, and they plan to raise this issue with Fono leaders and the administration.)
“So far, we haven’t been informed of any new developments" the DOC report says, noting that "they continue to wait to hear" from the Governor’s Office about this important matter.
Responding to Samoa News questions, DOC deputy director Uili Leauanae first explained that the matter of the Fagaima family stemmed from the family’s appeal of the Land and Titles Court decision in favor of ASG in regard to the ownership of land on which the Tafuna Industrial Park is situated.
“In its decision, the High Court determined the Certificate of Irreconcilable Dispute (CID) issued by Samoan Affairs deficient, declared that the courts lacked jurisdiction, and remanded the matter to go through administrative proceedings again,” he said, adding that “at the conclusion of the first [Office of] Samoan Affairs hearing, the Fagaima Family made the offer of $5 million to settle its case against ASG.”
He said the offer has been under consideration at the Governor's Office, and DOC is unaware if the Governor's Office has reached a decision.
“Should ASG choose to decline the offer, Samoan Affairs then should proceed with the second mandated hearing before deciding on whether or not to issue another CID, and then and only then can this issue be brought before the Land and Titles Court again,” Leauanae said.
PACIFIC PRODUCTS PARCEL — LOT 58
Another legal matter faced by DOC concerns its efforts — as they work with the Attorney General's Office — to secure Lot 58, previously occupied by Pacific Products and awarded by ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank to Tutuila Inc. (ANZ bank also holds a lease at the Industrial Park for its Tafuna branch).
DOC says Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga and the AG’s Office met with Tutuila Inc. owners, and several options were offered in exchange for Lot 58, which will become part of the Nu’uuli Vocational High School campus. The plans for the lot include building a gymnasium to be used for sports and annual graduation ceremonies.
OTHER LEGAL ISSUES
Other legal issues cited in the first quarter report:
• DOC staff identified several tenants that unfortunately are unable to continue lease payments as stipulated by the terms of their leases. Although several attempts in the past to provide assistance through payment plans were offered to tenants, in the end it just compounded the problem, resulting in increasing instead of decreasing the arrearage.
As a result, ASG has no option but to recommend to the governor the termination of these leases. (The report didn’t identify the specific tenants being recommended for termination).
• There is an ongoing process to obtain additional information about existing park tenants with regards to the number of employees presently employed; and whether or not the business has insurance coverage as required by terms of their lease.
Later this week, Samoa News will report on several more issues faced by DOC at the Industrial Park.