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Major change of admin brings resignations to the fore

As Gov. Togiola Tulafono prepares to leave his chief executive post in early January, so will his cabinet directors, whose nominations to head government departments are subject to Fono confirmation, while contract workers are subject to their contract terms.

Samoa News has received inquiries as to when cabinet members as well as contract workers of the outgoing administration are supposed to submit their letters of resignation prior to the incoming administration of Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga.

This is the first time that a major change of administration has taken place since December 1996, following the run off election of that year, when then Lt. Gov. Tauese P. F. Sunia and his running mate Togiola T.A. Tulafono won and took over in January of 1997.

Asked when cabinet directors or heads of ASG offices and agencies for the current administration are required to submit their resignation, Human Resources Department director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford said, “department heads that are subject to confirmation by the Fono must submit resignations that are effective Jan. 3.”

There are more than ten cabinet directors subject to Fono confirmation, as cited in local law.

“There is no requirement as to when such resignations must be submitted unless determined by the governor,” said Langford responding to Samoa News questions. She also cited the provision of the American Samoa Code Annotated that covers this.

ASCA 4.0112 (g); states that... “all incumbent department, bureau and office heads” that are subject to confirmation must “tender their resignations effective on the first day of a new governor’s administration”, said Langford, adding that Jan. 3 is set as the first day of the new administration by ASCA 4.0105.

Asked if contract workers — either on one or two year contracts — are supposed to resign prior to a new administration taking over, Langford said that “with the few department heads that are subject to Fono confirmation and also under contract, care must be taken to ensure that ASG honors the terms of their agreement.”

Additionally, termination of “contract specialists” is governed by the American Samoa Administrative Code provisions 4.1007-08.

“Whether a staff member is legally required to resign depends on their status. A political appointee serves at the pleasure of the governor or lieutenant governor, as the case may be, but career service staff members are protected by Title 4 of the Administrative Code,” the HR director said.

For example, career service employees can only be removed, demoted or suspended for cause — such as“below standard job performance, misconduct on the job, misconduct off the job which reflects adversely on the government, conviction of a felony, sentence to prison for 30 days or more… or violation of standards established administratively which govern employee conduct and deportment,” she said, referring to ASCA 7.0801.

“A career service employee can resign, but it must be voluntary. Career service employees can be reassigned within a department involuntarily with Department of Human Resources’ concurrence, as long as the reassignment is to a position that includes the same rate of compensation,” Langford said and cited ASAC 4.0804.

Meanwhile, another inquiry to Samoa News is whether outgoing directors will get any paid leave time not used. This issue first surfaced during the fiscal year 2013 Fono budget hearings in September, and it was confirmed by government witnesses that funds were earmarked in the FY 2013 budget for each department to pay excess leave time for cabinet members as well as the governor and lieutenant governor.

Samoa News further understands that many of the contract workers, under the Governor’s Office, have contracts ending Dec. 31st, 2012 and will be seeking payment of any excess leave time also as part of their final check.

Governments witnesses have testified in the Fono that there is an average of 1,000 contract workers employed by the government in various departments, including the Governor’s Office.

(See Samoa News editions of Sept. 7 and 11th for full details).