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CCCAS wants its house in Kanana Fou back, now

[SN file photo]
Court says no, but says Rev. Amaama must pay $35K bond pending appeal

In the continuing saga of the CCCAS vs. Rev. Amaama Tofaeono, the Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa in a decision issued on Nov. 30, 2017 has granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs’ motion to relocate the defendants — Rev. Amaama Tofaeono and his wife, in lieu of a monetary bond being paid by the defendants, pending appeal.

In March 2017, the Elders Committee of the Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa (CCCAS) suspended Rev. Amaama Tofaeono from his position as an ordained minister for a period of three years. Amaama was then removed from his position as General Secretary of CCCAS, a position that must be held by an ordained minister.

The defendants were informed that they must vacate the CCCAS house designated for the General Secretary by March 31, 2017. When defendants refused to move out, plaintiffs brought this action for summary repossession, trespass and damages.

The residence for the General Secretary was chosen and renovated for its proximity to the CCCAS main office in Tafuna, and for the purpose of entertaining CCCAS officials and clergy. The plaintiffs appointed an interim General Secretary to replace Amaama, and the interim General Secretary lives in a CCCAS-owned house in Fagalele, Leone — far from the CCCAS main office — and his only means of travel is by public transportation.

CCCAS has offered to relocate defendants to the CCCAS-owned house in Fagalele while the appeal is pending, and allow the interim General Secretary to occupy the General Secretary’s residence and attend to his duties. Defendants have refused.

In discussion, the Court says due to points of law, a bond is required pending appeal. However, it says the CCCAS is arguing that a monetary bond will not satisfy its summary repossession claims for the loss of the use of the General Secretary’s house currently occupied by the defendants, because the interim General Secretary’s duties require his proximity to the CCCAS main office.

As such, CCCAS says the defendants have denied their request to relocate to the CCCAS-owned house in Fagalele, Leone, to accommodate the interim General Secretary’s need to be closer to the CCCAS main office. And for that reason, plaintiffs now argue for relocation as a substitution for the monetary bond.

The Court is satisfied with the uniqueness of the premises designated for the General Secretary; however, the law does not allow the Court to substitute the bond with plaintiffs’ proposition. Thus the Court denies plaintiffs request, and grants the requirement of a bond.

In a normal case, the Court may simply calculate the rent for the estimated period of the appeal process and require a bond in that amount. According to the Court, this is not a normal case. Defendants were never required to pay rent, and the uniqueness of the premises that defendants continue to occupy, warrant a meaningful bond. Otherwise, the toll on the issuance of the writ of restitution becomes absolute.

Therefore, bond shall be in the amount of $35,000, with the Court determining that this amount is sufficient for the purchase of a vehicle for use by the interim General Secretary.

This bond, the court says, will enable CCCAS to provide the interim General Secretary with the means to conduct his duties far from the CCCAS main office in Tafuna, because defendants continue to occupy the premises that were designed for the fulfillment of those duties.

The Court orders that the defendants post bond in the amount of $35,000 no later than 30 days from the date of this order. The bond must be deposited in full with the Clerk of Courts. Failure to post bond will result in the issuance of the writ of restitution.

CCCAS may request the release of the bond to purchase a vehicle for use by the interim General Secretary to fulfill his duties. However, should defendants prevail on appeal, then CCCAS shall re-deposit the full $35,000 amount with the Clerk of Court.