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DHR Director sends regrets by email over miscommunication on House hearing

Human Resources Department director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford says her off-island trip was planned for more than a month and she had no intention of ignoring requests by the Fono to appear in legislative hearings.

Langford was scheduled to appear Tuesday before the House Government Operations Committee to testify on the ASG hiring process especially with regard to hiring for the Department of Education, which has 50 vacant teaching positions to be filled.

However, she was a no-show at the hearing, and no one else from the Department showed up to testify. The committee was told that Langford was off island and Samoa News learned that she left Sunday night.

Langford told Samoa News via e-mail from California that she always makes sure that she attends every legislative hearing requested by lawmakers and she just learned from her staff in Pago Pago that the DHR deputy director — Ulugaono W. Allen — didn’t attend the hearing on her behalf.

“I consider all legislative inquiries important and regret that this has happened,” she said  Wednesday night.

Langford is attending this week’s meeting of the Federal Region Council (FRC) meetings in San Francisco, the same meeting that Gov. Togiola Tulafono is scheduled to attend. The FRC is a consortium of seventeen separate federal departments and agencies representing nearly thirty different program offices in Region IX. 

The FRC currently has six committees focused upon broad geographic areas and/or special populations in the vast expanse of Region IX, one of which is the Outer Pacific Committee, which deals with the Pacific territories and freely associated states, according to the Office of Insular Affairs website.

Langford has since written to House committee chairman Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen explaining the reason she was unable to attend.

“I sincerely apologize for the miscommunication of information that should have been relayed to you in response to the witness request,” she wrote and noted that she was scheduled to attend the FRC meeting in San Francisco since last month as part of the delegation from the American Samoa Government.

Upon receiving the notice for the hearing, she said she knew there would be a scheduling conflict. She normally communicates back to the Office of Governor and replies in writing to the Committee Chairman for any appearances in the Senate or the House that she is unable to make, but in this case, “I thought that my Deputy Director could attend on my behalf; there was obviously miscommunication in the information and resulted in no appearance from my department,” she wrote.

“I want to emphatically state that I have never missed a witness hearing without providing a written response to the Office of the Governor and the Committee Chairman,” she said.  “This is the first time that I did not provide a reply because I thought the matter was resolved with the substitution of my Deputy Director.”

Regarding DOE human resources actions, Langford explained that she also had received inquiries for information and met with Rep. Simei Pulu on Feb. 23 to discuss the DOE actions and other questions.

Additionally, she also addressed concerns raised by Reps. Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., Larry Sanitoa and Taotasi Archie Soliai through email inquiries on DOE actions and had also provided a response to the media on the issues with the same matters. (Samoa News reported last week on the DOE actions and the DHR hiring process)

“I acknowledge the miscommunications and am more than willing to appear before the committee to answer any concerns they may have. I am traveling back to American Samoa on March 11, 2012 and can be available that week to discuss your concerns further,” Langford wrote to Faimealelei.

At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Faimealelei said he was very disappointed that this keeps on happening — hearings that take up the time of representatives — and witnesses fail to show up. He said this goes to show how directors do not care about the representatives’ request for their appearance at hearings.

Faimealelei noted that it would be a different story if the director was being disrespectful to her employees, but these are representatives of the legislature. Other lawmakers echoed the same statement.