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Le'i strongly defends gov's decision to appoint Liu to HR

Director of Human Resources Le’i Sonny Thompson is defending the appointment of Eseneiaso Liu to the post of HR Deputy Director on a $60,000 contract, after she retired in February, 2013.


“Her qualifications in the field of human resources are unquestionable,” said Le’i. “Mrs Eseneiaso as Deputy Director, Department of Human Resources is duly recognizing her long and faithful service of 45 years as a Human Resources Specialist."


Le’i in response to Samoa News queries said, “Eseneiaso is Deputy Director for the personnel division. As a veteran of this department her working experience started from the period of elected governors to the present.” 


Regarding the appointment of Mrs. Liu, Le’i said the gubernatorial appointments and any other appointees by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are at their discretion and it’s not a violation of the law. He said she decided to retire and accepted a contract as an appointee.


“In recognition of her commitment, dedication and perseverance to ASG and to the Human Resources profession for 45 years, we presented her with a plaque,” said Le’i during her retirement party three months ago.


“The Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s decision to appoint her as my Deputy Director, is the right decision and it provided me invaluable assistance and continuity in moving the HR Department toward a new height commensurate with contemporary personnel management policies.” 


Le’i explained that anyone who is retired can be hired to work for the government. He quoted the American Samoa Administrative Code, (ASAC) Title IV, Chapter 3, Section 4.0314: “An employee who has retired may be reemployed under this chapter but his annuity shall be suspended during the period of his reemployment under this chapter.” 


 The HR Director noted the Lolo administration’s policy about not continuing with the “double dipping” phenomenon remains, and all employees who are drawing retirement and are also on contract will not have their contracts renewed once the contract period lapses. 


“In areas where the expertise is vital to the services provided to our people and no person is found with the required skills to maintain continuity, quality and integrity, the contract will be extended with the incorporated criteria that a replacement will be trained to assume the post when the contract extension period expires.”


He further stated that Mrs. Liu possesses vast institutional knowledge on the transformation of the American Samoa Government Personnel System and played an integral part in the reconstitution of the Career Service Merit System during late Governor Coleman’s first year of his first administration, when the retired Human Resources Director of the State of the Hawai’i Government, Mrs. Edna Taufa’asau, assumed leadership of the ASG Office of Personnel. 


“Eseneiaso was also involved in all subsequent adjustments to our personnel system prompted by studies, which were commissioned by different directors,” he said.


He noted the general public should know that bringing retirees back into the workforce is perfectly legal and is based on qualifications, ASG needs — most importantly — the continuity of quality service to the people of American Samoa. 


He noted the Human Resources Department is currently reviewing all ASG personnel with a goal of conducting a reclassification by the end of these four years. 


“I need the best to get this goal accomplished which will in return benefit ASG and its people" said Le'i.                  


 Le’i also clarified with Samoa News that currently Ulugaono Waldie Allen is not a Deputy Director with HR. Ulugaono was Deputy Director in the previous administration.


“Ulugaono, the previous Deputy Director, is a career service employee and is protected under the career service employment status and he will serve out his remaining years before exiting through retirement or resignation; whichever and whenever he finds it deemed necessary,” he said.


The HR Director said upon completion of the new “organizational chart” that HR is working on, he will appoint another Deputy Director for Employment and Training, in due time.


Efforts to obtain comments from Ulugaono were unsuccessful as of press time.


Samoa News notes that Mrs. Liu received $7,500 from the government in March 2013, following a settlement  between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ASG, as a result of a lawsuit she filed alleging age discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Hawaii in August, 2011.  


As reported by Samoa News earlier, the court issued the order adopting the decree which requires the government to pay Liu $7,500. In addition, the decree requires the government to complete certain 'make better' actions by specified deadlines.


The payment to Mrs. Liu was to be designated as back pay compensation under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), and subject to the statutorily required deductions for federal, state and local income tax withholding and social security/Medicare tax withholdings.


ASG is responsible for all employer's share of taxes, which are not to be deducted from the total amount due to the claimants. The decree also required the government to offer reinstatement to Affected Employees, if it determines that they were subjected to demotion and or constructive discharge in violation of the ADEA.