Senate rearranges confirmation hearings for nominees to ASG boards
Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie has rearranged confirmation hearings for the governor’s nominees to ASG boards, with the plan to end the special session tomorrow, Thursday, as the House is waiting for the Senate to complete its work.
Late last week, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga called a special session, which commenced yesterday and is not to last more than 5 calendar days. And the Senate scheduled yesterday morning two separate confirmation hearings for the Immigration Board and the Board of Registration for Professional Surveyors, with communication sent to the Governor’s Office last week about yesterday’s confirmation hearings.
Several senators voiced concerns that not all of the nominated board members showed up at yesterday’s confirmation hearings and questioned as to whether the governor is aware that nominees were no shows, yet the special session was called by the governor.
Sen. Tuaolo Manaia Fruean believes there is a breakdown in communication between the nominees and the Governor’s Office. For example, Tuaolo said he was just informed by a nominee to the Board of Registration for Professional Surveyors of being contacted by the Governor’s Office yesterday morning about the hearing, but the nominee was already at his job, in his work clothes.
At Fono hearings, both Chambers have a strict dress code when witnesses appear to testify — for example, men must wear ties.
For the board for Professional Surveyors, the only nominee that was able to make the hearing was Taulapapa William Sword, who told senators that he was just informed yesterday morning about the confirmation hearing and rushed over to the Senate.
Luckily, he said, he resides close to town and was able to make it to the hearing.
Thereafter the committee decided to postpone the hearing until later this week to give time to all nominees to attend the next scheduled hearing, which is now set for tomorrow morning.
The communication policy for Fono hearings is that all requests for ASG witnesses — including directors and nominees to boards — are sent by the Fono to the Governor’s Office, which then contacts the requested individuals about the date and time of Fono hearings.
During yesterday’s Senate session, senators confirmed all five nominees for the Immigration Board. They are: Gloria Ausage, Tago Ativalu, Togotogo Poto Sotoa, Fanene Edda Wyberki and Sen. Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr.
Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the other two board members nominees, Frank Gaisoa and Rep. Gafatasi Afalava, were off island.
Last week, the House confirmed Ausage, Ativalu, Togotogo and Fanene. For Fa’amausili, he is scheduled for confirmation today in the House.
Gaoteote informed senators yesterday that the governor called the special session and communications regarding scheduled confirmation hearings were promptly sent to the administration.
However, he says that if only one nominee shows up, such as in the case of the Board of Surveyors, the hearing should still proceed. He said the Senate can not hold up its work just because witnesses don’t show up.
Additionally, the 72-hour requirement for the Fono notice to the governor’s office for witnesses to testify is waived when it comes to the special session.
Gaoteote then announced the new schedule for confirmation hearings, with the LBJ board at 8a.m. today, followed 30-minutes later with the Board of Higher Education and at 9a.m. the ASG Employees Retirement Board.
LBJ board nominees are subject to Senate confirmation only. And only two members are being nominated because the terms of the other members have not expired yet.
The new nominee is the governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, who replaces previous board member Filifa’atali Michael Fuiava, currently the Agriculture Department director. The governor has renominated Rep. Faimealelei Anthony Allen for another term.
Then on Thursday, only two Senate confirmation hearings are scheduled, the Scholarship Board and Board of Professional Surveyors — are also subject to Senate confirmation only.
With these changes made, Gaoteote said the special session is now scheduled to end tomorrow. He added that the House has completed its confirmation process for all boards submitted by the governor, but is awaiting the outcome of the Senate’s decision before closing the special session.