Accrued leave time eligibility for gov and lt gov questioned
The Fono is calling for the Department of Human Resources to thoroughly review local laws and regulations pertaining to the eligibility of a governor and lieutenant governor to accrue leave time, after DHR director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford confirmed that these two top elected officials of ASG are eligible for sick and annual leave.
This issue along with the eligibility of cabinet members to accrue leave surfaced during budget hearings early last week and last Friday during the budget hearing for the Governor’s Office, the governor’s chief of staff Pati Faiai confirmed to lawmakers that a governor and lieutenant governor are eligible for annual leave.
Twice during the hearing, Faiai confirmed that the governor and lieutenant governor are eligible for annual leave.
So when Langford and deputy director Ulugaono W. Allen were before the Fono joint budget hearings yesterday for DHR, Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli asked if the governor and lieutenant governor are “eligible to receive annual leave” and under what authority, are these two officials entitled to it.
Langford pointed out that the administration code addresses leave and entitlements for employees. And as to whether the governor and lieutenant governor are entitle to accrued leave, she said the interpretation of the administrative code reads that employees of the government, who receive wages, “are all entitled to take sick leave and annual leave” and “in that regards the positions of governor and lieutenant governor are entitled to sick leave and annual leave.”
Galeai asked who made such a final decision and Ulugaono said that the department follows what’s in the administrative code.
The senator, who was not satisfied with the reply, said that to his understanding, the only ones entitled to accrued leave are those under the merit system law or career service employees. He said the governor and lieutenant governor are elected officials of government, the same as lawmakers, and therefore are not entitled.
He then asked if there is any decision by the court or any opinion by the attorney general pertaining to this matter. “Are there written decisions, or are you just assuming it?” he asked.
Ulugaono said this has been the practice for past administrations and DHR follows the administrative code. However, he said he is not sure if there was any written decision back then.
Galeai said he is aware that there are past governors, who didn’t get accrued leave and suggested that the DHR officials research this matter now on whether there is a provision of regulation or the law that qualifies the governor and lieutenant governor to accrued leave.
He said ASG employees are covered under the merit system law and those are the only ones entitled to leave — except for contract workers, if it so states in the contract.
He also says that directors do not qualify for accrued leave because they are “political appointees” of the governor.
Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai asked a follow up question for further clarification dealing with the governor and lieutenant governor as well as political appointees. Langford says the issue is further clarified in the Administrative Code dealing with ASG employees as well as the different types of appointments to government posts.
Taotasi pointed out that local statute states that the only people qualified for annual leave are career service employees.
“I’m sure you’ll agree with me that our local statute trumps, the Administrative Code when it comes to actual enforcement,” he said and requested an official written clarification, either from the AG’s office or the DHR legal counsel.
When asked late last week about leave entitled for ASG employees, Langford told Samoa News over the weekend that the American Samoa Administrative code states that anyone “who has annual leave to his credit and who is separated from his employment with the ASG is entitled to payment of accumulated, accrued annual leave in a lump sum. Accrued annual leave may not exceed 60 days as of the first day of the first full pay period in the calendar year.”
“Lump-sum leave payments are equal to the compensation that he would have received had he remained in the employment of the ASG until the expiration of the period of annual leave paid. Included are pay for holidays falling within that period to which the employee would have been entitled,” she said.