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DBAS terminates counsel’s contract; demands laptop

joy@samoanews.com

The Development Bank of American Samoa (DBAS) has terminated the contract for their legal counsel, Fainu’ulelei Alailima Utu, and it was at his (Fainu’ulelei’s) request, says Acting DBAS Board Chairman, Talia Fa’afetai I’aulualo.
 
The request was noted in a letter Fainu’ilelei wrote to board members on January 30, 2014, which Samoa News first reported on last month.
 
In his letter, Fainu’ulelei requested that his contract be terminated if the bank is unwilling to convert his employment to career service “at the earliest opportunity” — for reasons he cites as “compelling” in a letter sent to DBAS Chairman Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua, DBAS board members and Acting DBAS President Ruth Matagi Fa’atili.
 
The Acting Chairman told Samoa News he’s confused as to why Fainu’ulelei wanted to convert his employment status to career service, when his contract is not up for discussion until December 2014.
 
Talia continued, “There is one issue I want to make known. Governor Lolo has no bearing on this move— this was the board’s action based on his (Fainu’ulelei’s) request in his letter. I only bring up the governor on this, because people are asking if the governor contacted the board on this matter. He did not. The board acted because Fainu’ulelei asked the board and also gave us the deadline,” said Talia.
 
When asked if the board discussed the option given by Fainu’ulelei to convert his contract to career service, Talia responded that it was discussed. “However, it was just too early for the board to act on converting his employment status, as the DBAS board members are fairly new to their job so they need time to evaluate his work performance to make a steady decision.
 
“In this case, Fainu’ulelei did not give the board enough time. Not only did he make certain requests, but he also gave the board a date for his last day at work,” he told Samoa News.
 
Talia further stated that by March 14, 2014 all of the DBAS property that Fainu’ulelei has in his possession should be turned over to DBAS.
 
Samoa News asked the Acting Chairman if these possessions include the laptop that is in Fainu’ulelei’s possession, and Talia said yes, “including the laptop.”
 
As reported earlier, Fainu’ulelei asked the bank to deduct the cost of the laptop assigned to him from his severance pay “since I will need important records stored in the laptop for the federal government’s 1602 criminal investigation.”
 
The Acting Chairman told Samoa News the request to ‘buy’ his laptop has been denied by the board. Talia further stated that DBAS will pay Fainu’ulelei all the benefits and severance pay he’s entitled to under his employment contract.
 
BACKGROUND
 
In his letter to the board, Fainu’ulelei noted in his request to deduct the cost of the laptop assigned to him that “I understand that the former DBAS president took his DBAS computer with him when he left DBAS in 2012.”
 
Samoa News should point out that Gov. Lolo M. Moliga was the DBAS president in 2012, and resigned when he formally announced his candidacy for the gubernatorial race, which he subsequently won. Samoa News has asked Gov. Lolo, at the time the issue of the Fainu’ulelei and the laptop first surfaced, whether he had taken “his DBAS computer with him when he left…” and the governor’s response was “no”.
 
Fainu’ulelei pointed out in his letter that it appeared to him that his employment contract benefits were being targeted, even though they were reviewed in two board meetings and unanimously approved by the board according to the minutes of those meetings.
 
The Legal Counsel for DBAS wrote, “conversion of my employment back to career service is also justified because I am concerned about retaliation against my contract employment.
 
“As part of my duties, I signed and sent notices since late 2013 to many 1602 projects owners which include the DBAS Board Chairman and DBAS Facilities Manager and other government and community leaders, asking them to finish construction of their 1602 projects and correct their non-compliance or DBAS will file recapture suits against them.
 
Fainu’ulelei states, “as the DBAS official authorized by the DBAS board to oversee DBAS cooperation with the Federal criminal investigation of the 1602 program, I am concerned that persons of authority will retaliate against my contract employment if they themselves or persons they are close to, become targets of the 1602 federal criminal investigation…”
 
He further noted that he “has been encouraging DBAS management and employees to fully cooperate with the federal 1602 criminal investigation.”
 
Fainu’ulelei stated if the board chooses not to convert his contract to career service he would respect the board’s decision.
 
He asked that he work “until March 18, 2014 to file legal collection suits and 1602 recapture suits to protect DBAS from liability to the US Treasury, oversee submission of owner’s annual reports to Spectrum to be forwarded to HUD and to provide certain information already requested by the U.S. Department of Justice for the federal criminal 1602 investigation which will require my travel to Washington DC.”
 
In the meantime, the DBAS legal counsel and a private attorney hired by DBAS have been filing cases against owners of 1602 projects that have yet to be completed.



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