Thursday, February 17, 2011

Governor: Faleomavaega is a Rogue Delegate

Open warfare once again has broken out between Governor Togiola and Delegate Faleomavaega, but this time with a vengeance not seen in the past.  Why?  According to a Radio New Zealand report, it is widely believed that Togiola will make a bid for Faleomavaega's seat in Congress next year.  Togiola, who is served his second elected term after completing the unexpired term of his late predecessor, is barred by law from seeking re-election.

Sensing the potential competition from the powerful governor, the second longest serving chief executive in the territory's history, Faleomavaega last week fired a shot across Togiola's bow when the governor asked the Fono for a tax increase to cover the government's current deficit.  For his part, arguing against the tax hike, Faleomavaega pointed out that the federal government has sent down nearly a billion dollars since 2005, so the government should not be broke.

Now Togiola in a letter to the Fono leadership that played as a page one story in Samoa News has called Faleomavaega a "rogue delegate in Congress" in whom the ASG executive branch has "lost confidence."

In his letter Togiola said Faleomavaega stated his "views on our use of federal funds that publicly disgraces the territory, and requires a considered and definitive response."  Togiola says that Faleomavaega's suggestion that federal funds could be used to cover the government's shortfall in local revenues is the "kind of public demagoguery (that) is a witless call for corruption."  He went on to say "It is the nightmare of every inspector general in federal departments and federal agencies as well as the Department of Interior, who are charged with safeguarding federal funds for only authorized use."

To have used federal funds to cover a shortfall of local revenues, the "publicly delivered message" of the Congressman "is not only illegal, but with the intent he espouses, this becomes the promotion of criminal acts," the governor points out, adding that local and federal grants are operated separately and federal funded operations are "in good order."

According to the governor, the Congressman's "call for corruption" in the use of federal funds to offset shortfall in local revenues "is such an embarrassment to the territory."  He also said "I know that no other government of a U.S. territory that has had to put up with a constantly attacking and overreaching Congressional Delegate, as we do in American Samoa."

The next move is up to Faleomavaega.  The delegate announced that despite American Samoa's budgetary crisis, he is returning to the Foreign Affairs Committee and already is planning a fact-finding trip to South Korea.  Since he has been in and out of Seoul over the years as if it were Chicago, it is hard to believe he can find any new facts, but that's another story.  In the meantime, it does not appear his call for the Fono not to enact new taxes has fallen on deaf ears, as the governor's bill is moving apace through both houses.

What the governor left unsaid in his letter is that the shortfall in revenues was iteself caused by Faleomavaega's failure to stop the minimum wage increase in 2007 that drove out one cannery and forced the other one to downsize significantly.   A lot of wages on which revenues would have been collected have been permanently lost.

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