Chief Customs Officer concerned by release of personnel letters to news media
Chief Customs Officer Vaetagaloa Glen L. Lefiti “plans to defend adverse employment action” as stated in an email sent by his attorney Sharron Rancourt to Samoa News. Two weeks ago, Human Resources Director, Le’i Sonny Thompson moved to place Vaetagaloa on annual leave, followed recommendations from Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili.
The HR Director noted this in a disciplinary letter to Vaetagaloa, who allegedly failed to take action on a “high risk” matter that was under his watch for a month.
This came to light in connection with allegations that a Customs Officer — Francis Maluia — allegedly removed a package from the US Post Office that had been under surveillance for 30 days by the Custom Office, after K9 Customs dog "Tiger" had alerted to the package, indicating the presence of drugs.
According to Vaetagaloa, in his statement to the media, the action taken against him “might be news to some people, and I understand that the news needs to do its job, but I am very troubled that the American Samoa Government, or an unnamed individual(s) released copies of private and confidential personnel letters to the Samoa News. "
"These letters were sent to me personally, and my understanding is that the specific content of these letters is supposed to be a private matter between the employer and the employee."
Samoa News would like to point out that Director of Human Resource Le’i Sonny Thompson declined to release either of the disciplinary letters — to Vaetagaloa or Francis Maluia — to Samoa News, after we sent inquires to the HR director about the matter. In the story we wrote concerning Vaetagaloa’s personnel action, we made note of this fact.
The letters were later obtained by Samoa News through an anonymous source.
Vaetagaloa wrote in his statement to the media that “I am not, however, afraid to face the allegations made against me and I plan to fight the allegations against me to the fullest extent of the law.”
Two weeks ago, the HR Director in a letter sent to Vaetagaloa placed him on annual leave.
Samoa News understands, the Treasurer was only informed by Vaetagaloa after Samoa News contacted Vaetagaloa for a comment regarding the incident.
Vaetagola in response to media inquiries stated that he’s “the proud son of Fa’afetai and Helga Lefiti."
He said, "My parents taught me to be responsible and introduced values to help steer me through life. These same principles were further influenced by my twenty years of dedicated and honorable service in the United States Army."
“I am very grateful to my family and friends who have offered me words of encouragement and support. This support has helped me to deal with this difficult time and has given me the strength to stand up for what I believe in most.”
In the disciplinary action letter to sent to Vaetagaloa, which Samoa News reported on in its May 13th issue, the HR Director pointed out that the incident was brought to his attention in writing by the Treasurer.
Le’i wrote that “in the same letter, the Treasurer recommended that you, Mr. Glen Lefiti be placed on Annual Leave effective Monday, May 13, 2013 until further notice, for not taking the alleged matter seriously in accordance with your responsibilities as Chief Customs Officer…” The letter then outlines the Chief Customs Officer’s dereliction of duties due to the alleged incident.
Vaetagaloa was then told in the letter that because of the nature of this alleged incident and the ongoing investigation, he was ordered to directly turn in all the keys to the office and was also prohibited from entering the workplace.