Boards and Commissions: Compensation and quorum discussed at gubernatorial forum
Compensating Zoning Board members and the obligation of a sitting administration to fill the vacancy for ASG boards and commissions were two separate questions raised during the recent American Samoa Bar Association gubernatorial forum for candidates for governor.
The two questions come at a time when there have been complaints in the community, especially the private sector, over the lack of a quorum for ASG boards and commissions to convene and at times some boards and commissions could not meet because a vacancy or vacancies have not been filled in some boards and commissions.
For example, the latest board to make the news is the Immigration Board, which couldn’t meet for several months due to the lack of a quorum.
During the forum, the candidates for governor were informed that the Zoning Board plays a critical role, when protecting the unique character of American Samoa. In the past local funds were allocated to the Zoning Board, among other things, to be able to provide public notices of meetings published in Samoa News.
However, there has been the issue of a quorum of board members to the meetings because they are not compensated separately for their time. The candidates were asked, “Do you believe local funds should be allocated, to provide public notice and compensation for Zoning Board members? Please explain your answer?”
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who is seeking re-election, was the first to respond, saying the Zoning Board’s budget is funded by the Commerce Department. “So I don’t really see any problem with that, it’s just a matter of making sure that funds are there to provide the service and deliver the service” to the public.”
As to whether Zoning Boards members could be compensated, Lolo said, “It is our hope that all members of boards and commissions are paid. But the problem is we don’t have the funding... only those that are required by law to be compensated and we follow that.”
He noted, “But our plan is to make sure that we pay some of the boards that serve our community, especially when the private sector [members] are involved in the performing those duties and functions.”
Candidate for governor Tuika Tuika’s response was the shortest one he offered during the forum. “I believe they should be compensated for their service, performing the service for the public, for American Samoa,” he said.
Candidate for governor, Faoa Aitofele Sunia said that based on the way the question is structured, it appears that the reason people don’t show up at the meetings is because they’re not paid.
“If I was governor, and if I appoint them [members], and they don’t show up and there’s no money to pay them, then get rid of those [members] and appoint some more who wouldn’t mind serving without pay,” he said. “But if comes the time, the Fono enacts the law, to pay ever member of the board, then the rules changes and they must be there and perform their functions.”
BOARDS AND COMMISSION
Also raised at the forum is that, in the past, the Administration did not appoint members to some boards and commissions, which are provided by law and this has caused issues with various businesses and organizations. The candidates were asked, “What are your plans in making sure that all these boards and commissions and filled as required?”
Lolo was the first to respond, saying, “It’s my duty that we fill those vacancies on boards and commissions. I’ll make sure that members are appointed, and confirmed [by the Legislature] and make sure that boards and commissions are there to serve our community.”
Lolo went on to point out that when he first became governor, one of the main issues for the Administration was to get the private sector involved in boards and commissions.
“If you check on board members, almost every major board in this government, is served by members of the community,” he said. “The only boards that are served by [ASG] directors are those dictated by law, otherwise all members who are serving on the boards are members of business community and members from the private sector.”
Lolo also said that many times the Governor’s Office is not informed of vacancies on boards and commissions. “But I can promise you, that’s what we need to do, make sure that we do our job and we improve our job by doing what we have to do,” he said.
For Tuika, he said part of his plan is to remove all executive orders that establish authority agencies. “We want to get rid of as many boards and all the directors. We’ll save over $100 million,” he said.
Faoa responded to the question saying that apparently the public is having problems dealing with boards and commissions as they can’t meet due to the lack of a quorum and “for some reason, they’re inactive.”
“If we are elected, it’s a priority to make sure that all the boards and commissions are appointed members,” he said. “And also, check their operations to see, if they don’t show up and make quorums, they don’t meet and are giving the public a hard time... get rid of those members and appoint new members.”