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Togiola cautions directors about political campaigning

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has cautioned government directors not to get carried away during this political season and advised them to work together instead of being in conflict with each other.

Togiola’s statements, made during Monday’s cabinet meeting, comes at a time when Samoa News has received reports from ASG employees who allege that certain directors are “bickering” with each other and important work cannot be accomplished due to “political” differences in gubernatorial teams they support.

It also comes at a time when the gubernatorial team of Save & Sandra sent a letter to the Election Office, last week, requesting an official stance on gubernatorial candidates who are running in the 2012 General Election, and have not resigned from their government jobs.

Two cabinet members who attended the cabinet meeting said the governor observed that the territory is getting deeper into campaigning this year and cautioned cabinet members not to get carried away.

The governor also cited the fact that there are a lot of campaign activities on-going. He advised and counseled directors to do a better job by working together and putting aside their political differences.

“This issue of cabinet members getting into conflict with each other this election year was bound to happen — and it has happened,” one cabinet member said yesterday. “It’s best to deal with it now, before the campaigns heat up.”

Aside from Lt. Gov. Faoa Aitofele Sunia, who is running for the post of governor, cabinet members in the gubernatorial race are Administrative Services director Le’i Sonny Thompson as candidate for Lt. Governor (and running mate for gubernatorial candidate Afoa M. Lutu); Development Bank of American Samoa president Lolo M. Moliga running for governor; and Criminal Justice Planning agency director Taufete’e John Faumuina as Lt. Governor with Faoa.

During the meeting, the governor also reminded his cabinet not to use ASG property or assets for campaigning, and there is to be no campaigning during office hours.

From a proactive perspective and knowing the situation in the government workplace every election year, Homeland Security Department director Mike Sala issued a memo last December to the department’s personnel reminding them of current regulations and not to be actively involved in campaigns in order to protect the department’s credibility and integrity in view of its mission.

The Dec. 19 memo cites ASCA Title 7 - 7.0807, titled “prohibited political acts — penalty”, which states that__ it is unlawful for an employee of the government to:

•            use his official authority or influence as an officer or employee of the government for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for office;

•            directly or indirectly suggest, advise, command, coerce, or attempt to coerce an officer or employee of the government to pay, lend, or contribute anything of value to any person, committee, organization, agency, or party for political purposes;

•            use property belonging to the government to directly or indirectly benefit or support any political candidate or political campaign.

Any officer or employee of the government who violates this section is subject to suspension or dismissal from his position with the government, and shall be fined as for a class A misdemeanor, it says.

Provision of the statute also states that government employees, including contract and career service employees, may actively participate in the management of political campaigns, their own included, if the participation is after the employees’ normal working hours and off the premises of his place of employment, while on annual leave, or while on leave without pay.

“In order to protect the integrity and credibility of our department, all personnel must adhere and comply with [the] law,” Sala said, and encouraged eligible voters in the department to go to the polls during the Nov. 6 general election.