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ASNOC has new president, promises new beginning

The American Samoa National Olympic Committee last Friday elected Victor Langkilde as its new president, who promised transparency and accountability in the organization, which has long been the subject of public criticism over its financial affairs as a non profit group.


“My running for president was to open up the process more for wide participation and decision making, along with good reporting and transparency,” said the 42-year old new president over the weekend, responding to Samoa News questions.


Langkilde, president of the American Samoa Baseball Association, takes over the leadership post from Ken Tupua, who had been president since early 2011 following the sudden passing of the former president Ben Solaita. Tupua, who served as general secretariat for many years at ASNOC, had sought reelection.


“It is with a humble heart that I sincerely extend to all the sporting associations a big thank you for the election results,” he said and thanked Tupua, as well as former secretary general Ed Imo and former treasurer Salaia Gabbard for all their work over the years with ASNOC.


Also last Friday, ASNOC membership elected Erika Radewagen as the new Secretary General, and Michelle Vargas as the new Treasurer for ASNOC, said Langkilde, who congratulated these new officials.


Radewagen is president of the Swimming Association and Vargas is with the Judo Association.


Langkilde, who is principal of Marist Fa'asao High School, says all sports associations attended the organization's election. They are Basketball, Baseball, Boxing, Canoeing, Judo, Wrestling, Softball, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Athletics, Golf, Soccer, Tennis, and Swimming.


“It is my sincerest hope that we all, as the sporting associations that make up ASNOC, can come together collectively to continue to make ASNOC a very strong organization,” he said. 


Langkilde said much work lies ahead but can only be accomplished together for the betterment of the local programs and the individuals who build it.


“ASNOC must get an understanding as a whole of all the issues— and put plans together carefully and properly as soon as next week in preparing for discussions, planning, and decisions,” he said. “With that said, It is a little too early to comment further in detail on the issues until we have a better understanding in the days ahead.”


There have been complaints in the past by sports organization members as well as the community over the lack of an audit of the ASNOC financial statements, as well as requests for such information to be made public. The calls increased last year to make the financial records public, in the middle of its “scratch bingo” fund raising activities.


Samoa News asked Langkilde, if he was aware of any financial audits of ASNOC over the years and if he plans to conduct a thorough one in order to get the financial picture of the organization at the start of his tenure.


“As we begin to transition in, the first order of business is to conduct an audit along with a list of other things,” was Langkilde’s response. “It is a little too early to comment further until I get a better understanding in the upcoming days ahead.”


During a Senate committee hearing in early October 2011, ASNOC president at the time Ken Tupua revealed that ASNOC receives close to $100,000 annually from the International Olympic Committee for training and administration expenses.


Asked what improvements he is look to do for ASNOC as its new president, Langkilde told Samoa News, “getting all people and associations to work together for the future of sports in the territory.”


Samoa News understands that in past years, members of the community, including the private sector, have been very reluctant to give freely to ASNOC fund raising events due to their mistrust of ASNOC’s handling and spending of finances.


Asked how he plans to address this issue of "mistrust" Langkilde’s said, “There has to be a wide participation of ASNOC as a whole in the process of discussion, planning and decision making.”


Among the major complaints that have reached Samoa News over the years are allegations of top ASNOC officials taking their spouses or family members on trips paid for by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for both regional games and the Olympic Games.


Asked how he would address this complaint, Langkilde said, “if they aren’t elite athletes representing American Samoa, or funded through specific protocol or invitation by IOC, they will be paying their own way — this practice will not exist for the purpose of just taking trips.”


Langkilde also says that he looks forward to working with Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and the government, along with the private sector “to build a strong partnership in moving towards a successful relationship and future.”