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Leave action contrary to law says Customs Officer

Customs Officer Francis Maluia through his attorney, Fiti Sunia has written to Human Resources Director, Le’i Sonny Thompson to rescind his decision to place Maluia on annual leave until further notice. The move by the HR Director followed recommendations from Treasurer Dr Falema’o Phil Pili.


Maluia is under investigation in connection with allegations that he 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 the letter, Sunia pointed out, “considering disciplinary action against a  career service employee, ASAC 4.0802 requires the head of the agency that employs the employee to give the employee written notice of charges against him and of the proposed disciplinary action to be recommended to the Director Human Resources.


“Along with this notice, the employee is to be given three days to respond by affidavit or orally to his agency’s head. The agency then considers the charges and the employee’s response before making a recommendation to the Director of Human Resources,” stated the letter.


Sunia noted the HR Director’s disciplinary letter to Maluia is contrary to the law. “The notice should have been given to Maluia by the Treasurer and Maluia’s response if any, must be made to the treasurer.


“Your May 13 notice is invalid and must be rescinded,” said Sunia. He further stated that he has advised his client, Maluia to report to work in order to avoid unexcused absences from work. “By law, Maluia is supposed to remain on active status,” said Sunia


The attorney also noted that the letter from Treasurer to HR has no indication to place Maluia on annual leave. Queries sent to HR Director Le’i regarding this matter were not answered as of press time.


As Samoa News reported last week, the Treasurer confirmed that they are conducting an investigation into this matter.


The Treasurer told Samoa News, "I am very cautious about these things because we have to protect the integrity of what we are trying to do within the organization," adding that,"given the magnitude behind this, it could have a ripple effect within the organization."


“Because of the seriousness and the extent of this alleged incident the Treasurer had recommended that you be placed on Annual Leave until further notice,” said Le’i in his letter to the Customs officer. The HR Director informed the Customs officer that he reviewed the recommendation letter from the Treasury regarding the alleged incident and the sequence of events which led up to him being place on leave.


“You shall be informed that I concur, and in accordance with the American Samoa Administrative Code (ASAC), Title 4, Chapter 8, Section 4.0802 Removal, suspension, demotion of career service employees; paragraph (e) (1), and until the investigation is completed and this matter resolved, you are hereby place on Annual Leave, until further notice.”


Maluia was also informed he was prohibited from entering the workplace effective immediately.


“Until then, I strongly recommend that you take this opportunity to conduct yourself in a manner commensurate with your employment status as a career service employee in the American Samoa Government and the standard expected of a Customs Agent,” wrote the HR Director.