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Inmate challenges Ipu's appointment to parole board

An inmate at the Tafuna Correctional Facility, Sebastian Igafo, is challenging Governor Togiola Tulafono’s appointment of Parole Board Member Ipu Avegalio-Lefiti.

Igafo, who was convicted of a sexual crime against his niece back in 2010, is asking in his open letter to the Governor to disqualify Mrs. Lefiti, alleging that she is an employee of the LBJ Medical Center and therefore, a government employee.

Igafo quoted ASCA 46.2701(a) *There is created in the executive branch a board of parole, consisting of 5 members appointed by the Governor, all of whom must be nonelected citizens of American Samoa, not employed by the government. The board shall select one of its members to be the chairman*.

He further states that Mrs. Lefiti is still seen working at the hospital and therefore, she should be disqualified to be a Parole Board Member.

“The purpose of this letter then, is to inform you (Governor) of this unfortunate mistake and violation of the law and [it] must be rectified immediately."

“Please do the right thing, nullify your previous appointment of Ipu Lefiti and appoint a new member to replace her and order the Chairman of the Parole Board to reconsider the nine previous applicants… when Mrs Ipu Lefiti sat in these sessions and the denied applicants are entitled to a re-hearing to guarantee ‘Procedural Due Process of the Law’.”

Igafo also pointed out in the letter to Togiola, that the governor is the son of the Late Reverend Tulafono, and he must do the right thing.

According to court records, Igafo was charged on January 18, 2010 with sexual abuse first degree, rape, deviate sexual assault, incest and sexual assault. He was convicted of First Degree Sexual Abuse, which is a Class D felony that is punishable with up to seven years in jail.

The prisoner was convicted for raping his niece several times until he was caught, and he was sentenced to five years in jail. After serving 1/3 of his sentence, he was eligible to go before the Parole Board.

Mrs. Lefiti has responded to the letter, noting that she’s currently working at Congressman Faleomavaega's Office as a representative to assist the military, veterans, retirees and their family members.

She further explained that she is a retiree from LBJ Emergency Room since 2010. However given Mrs. Lefiti’s  surgical specialty skills, if she is needed by the hospital she assists there, she noted.

“Even being a staff for the Congressman's office, if there is a need of my medical and surgical technician skills at the hospital, I am available to work for the hospital, but I am not a government employee,” said Mrs. Lefiti.

Samoa News inquired with LBJ Hospital Human Resources Division, regarding this issue. An official from LBJ Human Resources said that Mrs. Lefiti has been retired from the hospital for some time, however she works on a "per diem" status — as needed.

She explained that there are three types of employees at the hospital — full time, part time and per diem status. Per diem are those who only work on an 'as needed' basis. She further explained that, given the shortage of nurses at the hospital, nurses for the Department of Health work for the hospital over the weekend, when they are not working at their full time jobs. Mrs Lefiti is not an employee at the hospital states the official.

Mrs. Lefiti was appointed to the Parole Board in June 2012, following the plea from inmates at the Tafuna Correctional Facility to Togiola that — at the time — there had been no parole hearing held for almost a year.

Aside from being a parole board member she is  also a strong advocate on behalf of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, writing many op ed pieces, which have been published in the Samoa News, and works to actively promote awareness in the church and community.

Mrs. Lefiti served in the U.S. military until 1994, and is active in a number of organizations, including being the vice-chair for the Multi-Disciplinary Task Force against family violence; a founding member of the American Samoa Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (serving as vice chair and then as executive director);  a co-founder of American Samoa’s Task Force on Faces of Abuse; secretary for the Women in New Dimension, a domestic violence transitional facility; secretary on the governing board of the Boys and Girls Club of American Samoa; and a member of the First Lady Mary Ann Tulafono’s Ta’ita’itama Executive Board on prevention of underage drinking initiative.

Mrs. Lefiti received the first Arthur A Morrow award from the American Samoa Bar Association.