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Faoa is legal counsel for Retirement Fund, hired by former board

The former Retirement board hired former board member Faoa Aitofele Sunia as the fund’s legal counsel last year, said American Samoa Government Employees Retirement Fund Director Luatua Filisouaiga Ta'afua. who has been placed on 30-day annual leave.


This has also been confirmed by Acting Director, Caroline Wendt, responding to Samoa News queries, and while she and Luatua both declined to divulge his salary, several of the board’s members confirmed that he's working on an $80,000+ salary per year.


Mrs. Wendt and Luatua were responding to Samoa News questions, after members of the ASERF — government employees — inquired as to when Faoa was hired, and how much is he being paid, per his contract.


Calls to Samoa News started when articles were published regarding allegations against the retirement fund Executive Director, on the use of the Chairman’s signature rubber stamp for checks issued out of the Administrative Account without proper authorization. It was then that Faoa was mentioned as the Retirement Fund’s attorney.


Responding to inquiries, some of the board members told Samoa News that it was Luatua who had hired Faoa. However, according to the director, who was placed on annual leave, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga advised the board in early 2014 to employ its own in-house counsel, because “the attorney general was too busy to provide legal advice to the fund.”


The board was later summoned to the governor’s office to meet with Lt. Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga who again instructed the board to hire an in-house counsel, Luatua said.


He told Samoa News that the board met, and approved hiring a counsel and the position was duly advertised in the Samoa News.


In response to queries about Faoa’s salary, Luatua stated that “salaries of other agency counsels such as LBJ, ASPA, DBAS and ASTCA were reviewed along with applicant’s resumes and experience, to set a comparable level for the retirement fund counsel's salary.”


Samoa News was told that the amount of the salary is private.


“Fund members can find out matters they wish to know about their fund by inquiring from (sic) the fund office,” said Luatua, who made it clear that Faoa's contract was approved by the previous board and signed by the former Chairman, Aleki Sene.


Samoa News notes that the position was advertised with Samoa News in May 2014.


Queries were sent to Faoa as to when he started working at the Retirement Office, however as of yesterday afternoon, the emails were not answered.


In the meantime, several Retirement board members have told Samoa News that Faoa sent out an email last weekend to the Chairman of the ASGERF, as well as to Fanene Scanlan and board members recusing himself from anything surrounding the investigation of misconduct and conflict of interest against the Executive Director.


According to board members, Faoa said that morally, he cannot guarantee that he will be totally unbiased throughout.