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S & S attorney calls on AG for probe into resignation issue

fili@samoanews.com

The attorney representing the gubernatorial team of Save Liuato Tuitele and Sandra King Young has called on the Attorney General for a probe into the four candidates, who allegedly began actively campaigning before resignation from their government jobs.

The four, who are the same ones challenged by the Team in a petition Monday filed in the High Court, are candidates for governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau; and candidates for lieutenant governor Taufete’e John Faumuina and Le’i Sonny Thompson.

In a Sept. 11 letter to Attorney General Fepuleai A. Ripley Jr., local attorney Charles Alailima pointed to local statute (ASCA 4.0102) which provides qualification of candidates in the gubernatorial race.

“Resignation from government employment in any capacity in the executive or judicial branch before active campaigning is an absolute requirement for a candidate to be qualified” as a candidate for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, he said.

The attorney also pointed to local statute dealing with election fraud and penalties, and if convicted that individual shall be disqualified from voting “and from being elected to, holding or occupying any office, elective or appointive.”

“In my opinion judicial and executive employee candidates for governor and lieutenant governor commit election fraud if they are public officers and knowingly engaged in active campaigning without resigning,” said Alailima. “Election fraud would also be committed by any other public official who willfully fails, neglects, refuses to enforce or hinders the election laws.”

He says that his clients have information and do believe that the four candidates — Lolo, Hunkin-Finau, Taufete’e and Le’i — who are now, or were employees of the government and public officials of American Samoa have been actively engaged in activities intending to influence or obtain votes from qualified electors without having first resigned from their positions with the government as required by law.

Alailima says Fepuleai’s legal opinion of Aug. 30 to the chief election officer “confirms” that another provision of the local statute is grounds for disqualification and that all four candidates in question were ASG employees and during such employment did directly or indirectly through their supporters, post public signs and issue bumper stickers — seen on supporter vehicles — that solicited votes from the electorate.

He recalled that earlier this year, his clients had sent the attorney general a copy of their letter to the chief election officer advising of their complaint that certain employees of ASG were actively campaigning without resigning first from their government jobs.

He said the four individuals failed to conform with the law, which calls for them to first resign before active campaigning.

“My clients have no choice but to present this to you and ask you to do your sworn duty to uphold the laws of American Samoa,” he concluded.

Copies of the letter were sent to the chief election officer, Lt. Gov. Faoa A. Sunia and the four challenged candidates.

Chief Election Officer Soliai T. Fuimaono informed Alailima last week that he does not have the authority to enforce local statute dealing with employees resigning from their jobs before active campaigning.

He said his authority as chief election officer is limited to making sure that candidates meet the requirement to run for office — which is, that a person is either a U.S. citizen or national; a bona fide resident of American Samoa for five years immediately proceeding the election; and the person is 35 years of age or older.



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