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Magalei: Arts fest office had payroll, not ‘volunteers’

ASG Treasurer Magalei Logovi’i told the Senate Investigative Committee last week that those who worked in the Art Festival Office, which was overseen by the executive director Lauti Simona and the chief financial officer, Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde all got paid for their time on the job.

Magalei’s statement was made towards the end of the SIC hearing on the Samoan Heritage Week, which has been held in Honolulu for the last three years and SIC was probing the funding source.

The Treasurer sought permission from the SIC chairman Lualemaga Faoa to tell his side of the story after hearing through the news media that during a SIC hearing two weeks ago “disbursement to volunteers” for $201,144 was mentioned.

Leala Pili, who was part of the Arts Festival committee and the executive director of the Arts Council told SIC that all of them who worked during the festival, worked as volunteers and  this is the first she has heard about such a payment.

Pili’s statement was supported by Fagafaga, who mentioned earlier in the hearing that he was the only one paid for his job as chief financial officer, as required by a federal grant from the US Interior Department and he was paid by the grant.

During the SIC hearing last week Magalei said more than $200,000 was used to pay those who worked in the Arts Festival Office, including Fagafaga who was hired for $50,000 a year; Lauti Simona, who headed the Office and others — about eight of them — who worked at the office.

Magalei said it's true that a lot of those who worked during the arts festival, donated their time, were volunteers, but those who ran and operated the festival office all got paid, they had a payroll.

Lualemaga acknowledged that the Arts Festival witnesses had testified that they don’t know who got paid with this money. Lualemaga then asked Magalei to provide a payroll report of those who were paid while working at the Arts Festival Office.

Sen. Fuata Dr. Tagiilima Iatala also raised the question with Virginia Samuelu, another SIC witness last week, because the Budget Office report shows that she received $25,500 in payment through the Arts Festival records. Samuelu, who is currently an executive assistant to the governor, was the logistics person for the Heritage Week program.

Fuata asked Samuelu about her affiliation with the Arts Festival Committee and she replied that “I was detailed to provide support and logistics” for the festival.

Fuata says the question is due to the fact that there was Arts Festival money expended in her name.

“I didn’t have any part to play in funding. My only responsibility was for logistics,” said Samuelu, adding that this particular check was made out to her name for the prize giving of the Miss South Pacific Pageant hosted by the territory in 2008 and was the finale to the Arts Festival.

She said she doesn’t know how this got into the Arts Festival account, and she had no dealings with the finances. Samuelu said she has the documentation that specified that the late director of Commerce Department, Faleseu Eliu Paopao made a check payable to her name so it could be signed and given to the financial staff for the cash. “Prizes had to be cash,” she added.