AMERICAN SAMOA HEADLINE NEWS

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Friday, September 10, 1999
Samoa News

ASG PAYROLL COVERED BY STARKIST FOLLOWING "EMERGENCY REQUEST"

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)--StarKist Samoa has responded to "an emergency request" from the ASG (American Samoa Government) Treasury for money to cover ASG’s payroll.

According to acting Legislative Financial Officer Talalemotu Mauga, StarKist has made two corporate tax payments in the fiscal year that ends later this month: one for $3 million and one for $700,000.

Mauga prepared his report upon the request of House Speaker Aina Saoluaga T. Nua, who was responding to a request from several faipules.

Mauga’s September 8th letter to the Speaker does not state when the payments were made, but Governor Tauese Sunia told Samoa News recently that StarKist had paid $3 million in August as part of its regularly scheduled quarterly tax payments.

"The Payment was made due to an emergency request from Treasury to cover ASG’s payroll, but more importantly the StarKist Samoa, Inc., management, in good faith, helped out with the American Samoa Government financial crisis," Mauga concluded.

RIPE BANANAS OFF SCHOOL MENU UNTIL "RIPENING CHAMBER" IS ACQUIRED

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---The School Lunch Program has decided not to purchase any ripe bananas for the 1999-2000 school year until a "ripening chamber" is acquired.

The "Ripening Chamber" is a necessity for incorporating ripe bananas into the School Lunch Program, according to Frank Pritchard, Director for the Department of Agriculture.

"The current problem with getting ripe bananas now is that we can’t control which ones are ripe and how much of them are ripe. Some farmers come in with almost ripe bananas. Some farmers come in with just ripe bananas. Other farmer’s come in with banana’s that are over ripe," said Pritchard.

ELVIS PATEA CONFIRMED AS DISTRICT COURT PRO TEMPORE

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---The Senate gave a swift confirmation to Governor Tauese Sunia’s nomination of Elvis R.P. Patea to the post of District Court Judge Pro Tempore. (He will fill in on a temporary basis when District Court Judge John Ward is unavailable.)

The Governor sought a "speedy confirmation" from the Senate and that wish was unanimously granted after a 10-minute hearing yesterday.

The confirmation of judges requires only Senate approval.

SENATE TO INVESTIGATE SENATE SPENDING

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---The Senate is about to investigate its own investigation committee to determine how $75,000 allocated for the committee has been spent.

The request by Senate President Lutu Fuimaono increases the tension in the chamber, which is already split over the fate of terminated Legislative Financial Officer, Velega Savali.

The Senate Investigative Committee Chairman, Senator Tuilefano M. Vaelaa, yesterday submitted a one-page summary of how $64,250 was spent by the committee (see breakdown below). Tuilefano noted that he has been allegedly accused with mis-spending the funds.

"I was not going to make any mention of this report, but since you (Tuilefano) have brought this up, let’s get everything out in the open," Senate President Lutu Tenari Fuimaono told the membership.

That’s when the tension started between the two Senators and their verbal exchange caused spectators to wince.

Lutu said that he will chair a special Senate-Committee-of-Whole to investigate the expenditures report.

"I want all receipts and records justifying the spending. Let’s clear everyone as the Fono will investigate themselves," Lutu added.

Tuilefano thanked Lutu and promised to provide all details for the Senate President. "I support your investigation, but I would also like to know what happen to the $160,000 that belongs to the Senate (supposedly transferred to a different Fono fund to help pay for Golden Jubilee overspending). Where is that money?" Tuilefano asked.

A few months ago, Senator Moaaliitele Tuufuli, Chairman of the Jubilee Committee, twice called on Lutu to look into spending by the SIC.

SIC REPORT

SIC was created to examine territorial government finance and operations. The Committee spent almost all its money over a 10-month period, from December of 1997 to October of 1998.

The most noticeable work of the SIC was their probe into the petroleum tank farm fees. That probe helped prompt a court ruling that all funds shall be subject to appropriation by the Fono.

The expenditures report states that the largest single vendor was "2two/8 Consulting Group." The Hawai‘i-based group, which reportedly also received Golden Jubilee money, received $24,000 from the SIC.

Pat Galea‘i and the Samoa Computer Society received $19,300.

Faea Perefoti Failautusi received almost $10,000.

Computer vendors (iBC and Micropac) received almost $8,000.

ASG PAYS PLAZA HOME FURNISHING TO AVOID SMALL CLAIMS COURT

By Richard J. Coleman

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---The threat of appearing in Small Claims Court yesterday afternoon forced several departments of the American Samoa Government to pay some of their past-due bills, albeit small ones.

Plaza Home Furnishings got tired of waiting for payments from the government and took what was an unprecedented step for the company and filed suit against several government agencies in Small Claims Court.

According to a store official, this was a trial run to see what would happen, and it turned out successfully for the store’s collection efforts.

Plaza Home Furnishings sued to collect $2,542.00 from the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce and its Tourism Division.

The store received two checks for the sued amount yesterday morning and the suit was taken off the court’s calendar two hours before its scheduled hearing, and court records show that it was dismissed.

In the meantime, the ASG still owes Plaza Home Furnishings a past-due balance of over $70,000.

A suit filed in the Small Claims Division of the District Court is limited to a claim for $3,000. Suits for larger amounts may be filed in the High Court.

LBJ JANITOR SENTENCED FOR SLAPPING CO-WORKER

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---A janitor at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center was placed on probation Wednesday morning for two years for slapping an office worker at the hospital.

According to Judge Ward, Matauaina Muliau must also enter an anger management program and have no contact with his victim. If he fails to comply with the court’s instructions, he will have to serve 15 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility.

According to Muliau, who had been charged with third degree assault, he had struck the victim because she had gotten overly critical about his work. When he told her to shut up or he would slap her, she allegedly replied that she wasn’t worried because slaps don’t hurt her. He then slapped her and she opted to file charges against him.

Muliau remains on staff at LBJ and will face disciplinary action.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL POSTPONED FOR ONE WEEK

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---There will be no high school football games today, even though a season-opening triple header was scheduled for today up until yesterday.

The games were postponed a week by the American Samoa High School Athletics Association (ASHSAA), which consists of the principals of each of the local high schools.

"There are some things that ASHSAA needs to discuss before we can start the football season," stated Johnny Saelua, principal of Nu‘uuli Voc-Tech and also president of ASHSAA. "We all need to come to some kind of consensus before we can begin."

Saelua would not tell Samoa News what needed to be discussed, saying only that "it is a very touchy subject."

MILLIONS IN FEDERAL MONEY AFTER HURRICANE VAL

PAGO PAGO (September 10, 1999)---There is a silver lining to every cloud. Since hurricanes are very serious clouds, it appears that the lining is made of gold.

Since Hurricane Val struck in December 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided nearly $48 million in disaster assistance to repair and improve government facilities, while the Department of Interior has added another $9 million.

That total does not include the money FEMA spent to help individuals and their families, nor the approximately $10 million which the federal government will spend to clean up the abandoned long liners on the Pago Pago Bay reef.

AMERICAN SAMOA HEADLINE NEWS Thursday, September 9, 1999 Samoa News

TCF SHAKEDOWN SEARCH YIELDS CONTRABAND

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)--An early morning shakedown search at the Territorial Correctional Facility in Tafuna yielded "a fair amount" of contraband including marijuana seeds and plants, processed marijuana, crystal methamphetamine (ice), and alcohol.

The search by about 50 public safety officers did not find any firearms "but we did find some weapons crudely made from silverware," Commissioner’s Special Assistant Mike Fuiava told Samoa News yesterday afternoon.

"All this is dangerous stuff in the hands of the inmates," he pointed out. "It’s a threat to their safety and to the safety of all the workers at TCF."

INMATE VISITORS MUST GET COMMISSIONER’S PRIOR APPROVAL

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)--The Commissioner of Public Safety must approve all visitors to any inmate at the Territorial Correctional Facility, and the only people eligible to visit an inmate are those specifically requested by an inmate.

This is one of the new policies that went into effect yesterday morning.

The Commissioner’s actions follow in the wake of yesterday morning’s "successful" surprise shakedown search at the TCF in Tafuna.

The aim of the new policies is to be more strict in monitoring the whereabouts and activities of all inmates and those who may visit them, according to Commissioner’s Special Assistant Mike Fuiava.

EOB SPRUCED UP BY VOLUNTEER CHURCH MEMBERS

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---The Executive Office Building got a helping hand Saturday from volunteers organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

The LDS members turned out in full force on the Labor Day holiday to scrub walls, mop floors and plant some flowers. Several EOB employees were overheard commenting on how nice and fresh the walls and floors appeared.

The flower plantings have not had time to take root, but the LDS Church has offered to care for the plantings for the next six months as a community service project.

The service was greatly appreciated by the Governor and ASG employees, according to the Director of Administrative Services, Eliu Paopao.

"On behalf of the Governor and the American Samoa Government, I want to express our great appreciation to all the LDS Stake Presidents: President Fano, President Pili, President Stevenson and President Ho Ching, as well as Elders Eugene Reid and Mote Siufanua and all the members of their wards who came out to make our facility more beautiful," commented Paopao.

HOT DEBATE ERUPTS OVER SENATE BEHAVIOR

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---A one-hour debate broke out on the Senate floor yesterday when Senate President Lutu Tenari Fuimaono announced that he plans to re-employ Velega Savali, the fired Legislative Financial Officer, soon.

Lutu reminded the membership that he had been planning to meet with House Speaker Aina S. Nua to discuss Velega’s job status.

Lutu said a meeting was set with the Speaker for last Thursday, but the Speaker never showed up. Repeated attempts were equally unsuccessful. He then told the membership to leave the matter of re-hiring Velega to him, and he will deal with the Speaker later.

The LFO position is filled, or vacated, by the Speaker and President working in concert.

Reached by phone last night, Speaker Aina said he met with Lutu last week on the Velega issue, but he declined to relate what was discussed.

Senator Faiivae Galeai disagreed with Lutu. According to the Fono Senator, the Senate decided a couple of weeks ago that the Senate President would meet with the Speaker and report back to the Senate membership.

"The final decision is not yours alone. The Senate membership must also be involved," Senator Faiivae added.

Senator Liua Pisamoa Taifane, the person who raised the issue of re-employing Velega, said he believes the majority of the Senate membership wanted to bring Velega back.

Faiivae said the membership did not vote to bring Velega back and if proof is needed then the video of the session should be located and re-played.

Senators Ulugaono Tinitali and Liua echoed each other, saying that although there was no vote taken, there was majority consent.

Senator Matautia Tuiafono spoke at a deeper level. He said, "The key element in this entire matter is Senator Moaaliitele. That is why I pushed for the Resolution to expel Moaaliitele, because we have taken action against Velega. I believe we can’t expel Velega but not take the same action against the Jubilee Chairman," said Senator Matautia.

"What we did to Moaaliitele (who is now suspended with pay) is called ‘a slap on the wrist’," the Senator added.

Senator Tuilefano Vaelaa said he is very sad that the Senate is now trying to undo what was once decided by formal resolution (i.e., termination of Velega).

He believes that the new move to revoke the termination of Velega is "covering up the wrong doings." He reminded the membership that an investigative Committee was created to probe into the spending of the Jubilee funds and the committee, which he chaired, has completed its work.

"We submitted our findings and recommendations to the Senate membership and it was accepted. That prompted the termination of Velega and the suspension of Moaaliitele," he said.

"Why was this committee selected (if its actions were to be ignored)?" asked Senator Tuilefano in a voice that reached the House chamber and drew Fono employees to watch the spectacle. "I am very sad if this is how the Senate is going to operate. We make a final decision and we change our minds again.

"I am not against this person (Velega), but there are Senators in this chamber who wanted this overspending investigated and said if the culprit is identified to ‘charge them and hang them.’ Those are the words," he added shaking his head.

Because of some statements about the involvement of the faa-Samoa, Senator Tuilefano clarified that as a representative of his district, he will not let the faa-Samoa be used when it comes to the law of the land.

"The public is starting to point fingers at us about the way we make our decisions and than change them again," he added.

The presence of the Samoa News reporter in the gallery was remarked upon, as Senators noted that the public will once again see the difference of opinions in the Senate reported publicly.

"I am ashamed of the way the Fono (Senate) is right now," declared Senator Faiivae, noting that the government should be operated in an honest way.

Senator Tuanaitau Tuia reminded the membership that the Senate President and the House Speaker, have the sole right to employ and fire the LFO.

Senator Lealaifuaneva Peter Reid reminded the membership of the decision already handed down against Velega. All Senators but Ulugaono voted to terminate Velega.

Senator Leala called on the Senate President not to rush into any decision regarding re-hiring Velega because of the majority-endorsed Resolution to terminate the LFO.

Regarding Velega, President Lutu said he trusts Velega to handle the Fono’s finances. He reminded that he had honored the resolution to terminate Velega. "But the issue about Velega was raised again on the floor," he added.

Lutu asked the membership to let him make the final decision to re-employ Velega.

Lutu also pointed out that if the Attorney General determines Velega was involved in illegal Jubilee spending, he will be terminated right away (even though he is already terminated).

After more debate, it was decided that the President will once again try to meet with the Speaker before any decision is made.

Speaker Aina is not a supporter of Velega, whereas President Lutu is.

SENATORS QUESTIONING THEIR OWN SPENDING

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---Financial questions flew in the Senate yesterday as Senator Tuilefano M. Vaelaa sought to find out how more than $200,000 of the Senate’s money had been spent in the last two years.

According to Tuilefano, $160,000 was transferred from the Senate accounts to the Legislative Financial Office accounts to help pay for the Golden Jubilee Celebration.

"There are wrong-doings in the Senate’s budget with the transfer of $160,000. Whose fault is that?" asked Tuilefano in his best booming voice that attracted Fono employees to watch the debate from the balcony.

Lutu said he does not know who gave the authorization to transfer the funds. He said he has asked the Budget Office but has not yet received any response.

For his part, Lutu said he believes that there is still money left over from the approved $100,000 Jubilee Budget, despite reports of $500,000 worth of over-spending.

LAST TWO HIGH SCHOOLS OPEN DOORS FOR STUDENTS

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---Manu‘a High School and Nuuuli Poly Tech High School began their school year yesterday, a week behind the rest of the public schools.

Department of Education Director Dr. Sili K. Sataua personally opened Nuuuli Poly Tech High School. He announced the new name for the school and outlined changes that will be implemented to benefit students and prepare them for careers.

Dr. Sataua also noted the repairs and renovations at the school, which were the reason for the one-week delay in opening the school year.

Samoa News was unable to confirm the enrollment at Poly Tech.

Manu‘a High School principal Lagitao Lagitao said all required teachers are in place, and repairs and renovation of the school’s facilities and teacher apartments are almost finished.

MAIL FLOWN IN WITH HELP FROM CARGO FLIGHTS

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---The U.S. mail is being delivered, thanks to a combination of flights by Hawaiian Air and American International Cargo, which operates a weekly all-cargo flight.

Local Postmaster Smitty McMoore said "it was like Christmas-time" at the Post Office this past weekend.

American International Cargo, which normally brings in around 6,000 pounds of mail on its weekly Saturday flight, carried more than 20,000 pounds of mail this past Saturday.

ASCC BELT IS STILL TOO TIGHT, DR. HUNKIN TESTIFIES

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---The problems caused by the lack of funds in the American Samoa Government were once again made clear yesterday when the Fono reviewed the budget for the American Samoa Community College.

ASCC prepared a budget that calls for $3.5 million to come from local revenues appropriated by the Fono.

But the ASG Budget Office axed that amount and forwarded their own version of the budget, which gives ASCC only $2.3 million.

As a result, the college has decided not to give pay increment, has frozen hiring of more instructors to fill vacant positions, and is trying to figure out how to pay an anticipated electricity bill of $190,000 with a $20,000 budget.

FRUSTRATED CITIZENS JOIN IN COMMON CAUSE AGAINST CORRUPTION

PAGO PAGO (September 9, 1999)---"Can we send a message to current and future politicians that greed and waste such as the jubilee scandal will not be tolerated and those responsible will be held accountable?

"Do the people (citizens and taxpayers) have any power to put to a halt or at least slow down the waste and abuse of our tax money?"

These were two of the questions raised yesterday by a group of citizens uniting to fight crooked politicians.

About 30 concerned citizens responded to Mike Webster’s invitation to meet and discuss action, including a possible class action lawsuit for which he has collected signatures of support via a petition.

Webster stated that he has 653 confirmed signatures, but he noted that petitions are still being circulated and he can guarantee that the actual total is well over 1,000 so far.

Webster was close to tears as he explained his desire to see the little guy get a fair shake and the big bad guys face the consequences of their deeds.

AMERICAN SAMOA HEADLINE NEWS Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Samoa News

TWO AUNU‘U ALIA OPERATORS GET COAST GUARD WARNINGS

PAGO PAGO (September 8, 1999)---Two private boats operating between Aunuu and Auasi were detained and given warnings by the local office of the U.S. Coast Guard last week.

The vessels did not have operators’ licenses to carry passengers.

Lt. Thomas Griffitts of the USCG said an unannounced inspection was held after his office received reports that some private boats are carrying passengers but no life jackets.

If the operators who were warned last week do not comply and are caught again, Lt. Griffitts said the USCG would than issue citations. The Coast Guard will continue to keep checking vessels to promote the safety of ocean transportation between Aunuu and Auasi.

According to USCG, there are a couple of vessels plying the Aunuu/Auasi route which do not have licenses to carry passengers.

WEEKEND RAID TARGETS UNLICENSED POKER MACHINES

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (September 8, 1999)---The Poker Machine Task Force conducted another raid this past weekend.

The Task Force confiscated an unknown number of machines that had been operating without authorization from the government.

The raid was part of the follow-through to Governor Tauese Sunia’s May 20th memo, which ordered Director of the Department of Commerce Aliimau H. Scanlan, Attorney General Toetagata Albert Mailo and Commissioner of Public Safety Te‘o J. Fuavai to clean up the poker machines by July 1.

The Task Force on Poker Machines created by the three men has sought to identify legal and illegal poker machines in the territory.

In their latest report, the Task Force identified 212 legal machines and as many as 160 which were not licensed.

The Task Force sought to confiscate the unlicensed machines and was successful in getting about half of them. But in many cases, the poker machine parlors were closed when the confiscation raids took place and the Task Force was unable to gain access to the unlicensed machines.

The Task Force was thus reduced to issuing a notice of violation on the door.

"Last week we heard that some of the stores that were told to close their doors were going to open up over the weekend, thinking that the Government was going on a three-day weekend and won’t return until Tuesday," Scanlan told the Samoa News yesterday.

To prevent that from happening, a Saturday raid was organized.

According to Scanlan, the Task Force visited about 3 to 4 amusement centers. The director was unable to confirm how many poker machines, if any, were confiscated.

The weekend raid, according to Scanlan, should sent a clear message to poker machines operators that unlicensed machines should not be operating in the Territory.

AFUOLA KALASA PLEADS "NOT GUILTY" IN HIGH COURT

PAGO PAGO (September 8, 1999)---"Not guilty, your Honor" was the plea from former Associate Judge Afuola Kalasa, who appeared for his arraignment in the High Court of American Samoa yesterday morning.

Afuola is charged with seven counts of conspiracy and seven counts of forgery in relation to the fake Voter ID scandal.

The trial will not be held until March 28, 2000. In the meantime, Afuola is out on bail.

MARATHON RAISES $1,700 FOR RED CROSS

PAGO PAGO (September 8, 1999---It was a beginning and it raised $1,700 for the American Samoa Red Cross.

Seventeen teams set out from Tula Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. on the first annual American Samoa Red Cross and Army Reserves Twenty Six Mile Marathon.

Seven teams made it to the finish line at the Veteran’s Stadium in Tafuna.

No single runner completed the course on his or her own, according to Salei‘a Afele-Faamuli, Vice-Chairperson for the American Samoa Red Cross.

"The strongest would run until he ran out of breath and then the next person would jump out of the truck and take over," explained Afele-Faamuli.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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