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ASPA campaign complaint goes unanswered

Local consultant Bryan Jackson is still waiting for an official response from the Election Office and the American Samoa Power Authority to his complaint filed over ASPA’s involvement in the veto override referendum that was on the ballot of the Nov. 6 general election.

In his complaint with the Election Commission, Jackson alleged violation of territorial election laws by ASPA and its board of directors, for failing to file the required election reports after ASPA campaigned to defeat the veto override referendum.

ASPA board and management in an undated memo to the ASPA family and the community urged voters to vote “no” on the veto override referendum. And on the eve of election day, ASPA board members were on KVZK-TV, also urging voters to vote “no” on the referendum, which did go down in defeat.

Last week Samoa News received inquiries from our readers for an update on this story, which has outraged several residents, who insist that ASPA as a government entity shouldn’t be involved in any form of campaigning, even to defeat a referendum.

Jackson, who provides research and analysis consultant services, says that he visited the Election Office last Friday morning to see if there had been any response to the complaint, whether from ASPA or the Election Commission.

It was no surprise there was no response at all, he said, adding that he was told by Election Office staff that chief election officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono and Election Office legal counsel, Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde had reviewed his complaint.

“...but the chief election officer, is off island until December 10 and I would need to talk to him to find out the result of that review,” Jackson recalled the Election Office staff saying. The staff member also informed Jackson that there has been no reply from ASPA.

He said one of the issues relayed to him — and it’s something he is aware of — is the fact that the Election Office cannot do much about campaign spending reports due to the lack of a properly confirmed and seated Campaign Spending Commission, which is charged with receiving and reviewing these reports, not the Election Office.

“So at this point, the only thing I can do is to wait and see what the chief election officer says upon his return,” said Jackson, who noted he’s aware that ASPA has at least one private lawyer reviewing this issue as a result of his complaint.

Meanwhile, Jackson said, one of the more serious issues pertaining to ASPA “is that in all likelihood ASPA violated Chapter 8 of Title 7 of the American Samoa Code Annotated which expressly forbids government employees from engaging in political activities while on government time or the use of government resources for such purposes, and the penalty for violation of this law is substantial in that it ranges from demotion to suspension to outright dismissal of the employee(s) involved!”

(Read OpEd from Jackson in Opinion section today.)