Gov's nominees for Retirement board rejected

Six of the governor's seven nominees to the ASG Employees Retirement fund board of trustees were yesterday rejected by the Fono and it’s now up to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to decide on whether to resubmit the same names during the next session of the Fono in January, or submit new names during the current session.

 

The six nominees first appeared before the Senate Retirement Committee for their 25-minute confirmation hearing, followed by the House Retirement Committee’s hearing, which lasted for just over an hour.

 

The Senate was the first to vote and none of the nominees mustered enough “yes” votes to be confirmed. Each nominee would need 10 yes votes for a confirmation. Once they were all rejected, the House vote was only a matter of protocol because in order for a nominee to be confirmed, both chambers must give their endorsement.

 

During the Senate vote, Su’a Carl Schuster got 4 yes and 8 no; Talalemotu Mauga 7 yes and 5 no; Avamua David O Haleck 3 yes and 9 no; John Marsh 6 yes and 6 no; Nanai Afuola Kalasa 4 yes and 8 no; and Toafala Iafeta garnered 7 yes and 5 no.

 

Word quickly spread thru the Fono corridors and out into the House gallery that the Senate had “teena” or “rejected” all six nominees about the time the House session was just beginning.

 

For the House vote: Su’a got 6 yes, 10 no; Mauga 14 yes, 2 no; Avamua 5 yes, 11 no; Marsh 6 yes, 10 no; Afuola 5 yes, 11 no; and Iafeta 11 yes, 5 no.

 

The seventh nominee, Brandt ‘BJ’ Judy, who resides off-island, didn’t attend the hearing and was not considered by the Senate or House during their vote. Judy is the only trustee from the outgoing board re-appointed by the governor.

 

SENATE HEARING

 

At the start of the Senate hearing, Sen. Mauga T. Asuega asked as to the whereabouts of Judy, to which the committee chairman Sen. Avegalio Aigamaua explained that the Senate will not consider Judy’s nomination, since he was not present. He said this will be left to the governor to deal with Judy not being on island. 

 

Avegalio pointed out that the confirmation process for the nominees — who must be present during the hearing — needed to be carried out so that a Fono confirmed board can convene to start its work.

 

With this explanation from the chairman, the hearing proceeded, with Sen. Laolagi F.S. Vaeao telling the nominees of the importance of this ASG asset — the retirement fund — to the government and to current and future retirees.

 

“This fund must be protected for our future generations,” he said, adding that the market sometimes becomes volatile and told the members, if they are confirmed, to keep a close watch on the world markets to ensure safety of the Fund and its investments.

 

Sen. Mauga agreed with Laolagi and noted that the nominees have financial backgrounds that go well with their duties as trustees. He also told the nominees to check the markets and make right decisions when it comes to any investments.

 

The call to make sure that the nominees fully protect the fund was also raised by other senators including Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono, who urged them not to give any more loans to the government until the current loans are paid off.

 

This was supported by Sen. Saole Mila who shared with his colleagues and the nominees his support of former Gov. Togiola Tulafono’s unsuccessful bill that called for early retirement of ASG employees, who have worked for the government for many years, to have a cash incentive to retire.

 

Saole said this was a great initiative as it would allow for a new generation of college graduates to transition into the ASG workforce. (Saole wasn’t yet a member of the Senate when the bill went through the Fono at least twice over a three-year period.)

 

Sen. Magalei Logovi’i, one of the outgoing trustees of the Retirement Fund board, told nominees that the outgoing board was not against the nominees when the case was filed in High Court against the governor. He said the  “consultancy” between the board and the governor was the main issue. (The lawsuit was dismissed by the High Court).

 

Magalei wished the nominees the best if they were fully confirmed by both the Senate and House.

 

Senate President ProTemp Nua Saoluaga directed his questions to Su’a, who is 81 and Afuola, 80, regarding their health and fitness to serve on the board.  Both nominees said “yes” they are healthy and ready to serve.

 

Su’a added, that he has a business and he goes to work every morning. Su’a gave the same answer when this same issue was raised during the House confirmation hearing. More on the House hearing in tomorrow’s edition.

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