Minister, P.S.C. Commissioner dispute former C.E.O.’s claims

Two senior Government officials accused by the former Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papali’i John Taimalelagi, of forcing him to admit to the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.) charges, which led to his sacking, have disputed the claims.

Whereas the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, has questioned Papali’i’s motives for raising the matters now, a Commissioner of the P.S.C., Auelua Samuelu Enari, told the Samoa Observer he is considering legal action against Papali’i.

The response from the two senior Government officials follow a letter from Papali’i to Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, where the former C.E.O. has urged him to reconsider the P.S.C’s decision. The six-page letter written in Samoan, dated 31st May 2019 is copied to all Cabinet Ministers. 

Papali’i insists that the P.S.C’s handling of his case was unfair and that it was “dishonest.”

“I have consulted with my lawyer who has agreed to take this matter to the Court,” Papali’i writes to the Prime Minister. “However I have opted to seek your indulgence as the leader of this country for assistance in my case.”

Papali’i reminded the Prime Minister that the investigation, which led to, his sacking all started when Court files were removed from the Ministry of Justice premises and taken to the office of Minister Fa’aolesa.

“Prime Minister, I know what I did was wrong and dishonest, but I did it out of respect for my Minister.”

Papali’i claimed that his loyalty to the Minister has cost him dearly.

“I am saddened that my Minister did not protect me as he promised he would,” said the former C.E.O.

The letter also questioned the involvement of a number of Government officials in the investigation including the Chairman of P.S.C., Aiono Mose Sua, Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff and his office as well as the P.S.C’s Investigating delegate, Maiavatele Tim.

When the Samoa Observer approached Fa’aolesa for a comment, he questioned why Papali’i was making these allegations now.  

“The question is why he (Papali’i) didn’t bring this up before,” Fa’aolesa said.

“He’s trying to tie me to my brother-in-law to this. I have no comment.”

Fa’aolesa’s brother-in-law in question is Auelua.

In response to questions from the Samoa Observer, Auelua vehemently denied allegations by Papali’i.

“This is not true,” Auelua said.

“I did not write or prepared his letters. Papalii John was C.E.O. of M.J.C.A. and former senior official of P.S.C. One of the competencies of being appointed to these senior positions is knowing how to write and prepare letters.

“I am of the view that he should be well aware of P.S.C. Policy and procedures and processes required of the P.S.C. and other laws that govern the environment he was working on and how discipline matters are handled at P.S.C.”

Auelua also strongly rejected the allegation that he played a part in forcing Papali’i to admit to P.S.C. charges.

“Papali’i should have complained at that stage to the Chairman or to other higher authority Ministers or P.M. if he feels that my behavior/conduct in anyway was unbecoming,” Auelua said.

“But he did contact me for assistance in clarifying the stages of the investigation process. He did contact me for help as he was very concerned for his family on the damaging media reports. In fact he should not have contacted any member of the Commission, as the investigation was ongoing. That is disrespectful.

“A number of times also that he tried to contact the Chairman were declined.”

According to Auelua, Papali’i’s response to the six charges were received by the Chairman and was referred to the P.S.C’s Legal Division.

“I strongly recommend that you contact direct Afioga Maiavatele Timothy (Tim) Fesili who is the A.C.E.O. Legal who received Papali’i’s responses to the charges and also had discussions with Papali’i when he came to our office to submit his responses to the charges.”

Auelua said at not point did he try to interfere with the PS.C’s investigation.

“Never! I did not at any time tried to interfere with the investigation process,” Auelua said.

“Before the Investigation, there was an enquiry to assess whether or not an investigation is warranted on the matters raised by a letter from Tulima Pio.

“The Outcome of the Enquiry Report and Responses from Papali’i triggered the Investigation. The investigation was then undertaken by Maiavatele Tim ( Commission Delegate) as mandated by a formal warrant of appointment by the Chairman of the Commission as per requirement of the P.S.C Act.

“At the end of the investigation there were six charges made on several incidents and sent to Papali’i for his responses.

“One (1) charge made on the removing of Court files, three (3) serious charges on Sexual Harassment (with very strong evidence) and two (2) charges on inappropriate use of government resources.”

According to Auelua, after Papali’i had responded to the six charges, the report together with Papali’i’s response was referred to the Office of the Attorney General for an independent review and an assessment of the Investigation Report.

“A senior Legal Officer from the Attorney General's Office was seconded to P.S.C. office to work on this case,” he said.

“After the review and assessment by the Attorney General's Office has completed that report was then tabled to the Commission to deliberate on the appropriate penalties for the Officer under Review (Papalii).

“The Legal officer from the AG’s office was present during the Commission’s deliberation so to assist the Commission on any legal matters that the Commission may need advise.

“You may now note there is nowhere I can interfere with the investigation, given there is checks and balance in the process and I was never involved with the investigation. Again I strongly recommend that you contact Maiavatele Tim who will attest to what I have just outlined.”

Attempts to get a comment from Maiavatele and Aiono were unsuccessful at press time.

In the meantime, Auelua also addressed Papali’i’s claim about the conflict of interest.

“I wish to comment on potential conflict. As I mentioned above the enquiry undertaken by a different Commission Delegate (Tabitha Wong Sin) before the investigation was carried out.

“The purpose of the Enquiry is the see whether the issues raised by Tulima Pio in his letter which started all these processes warrant an Investigation or to ration government resources.

“A report was produced from that Enquiry which mentioned potential breaches of code of conduct. This was forwarded to Papali’i for his responses. In his responses, he accused the report as one sided especially on sexual harassment potential breaches.

“On or about three days after he submitted his responses to the Enquiry Report he requested an audience with the Commission. He came and apologized to the Commission regarding tone of his responses to that Report. During this meeting I did declare my connection to Papali’i through my spouse and this was witnessed by other Commissioners.

“Also during this meeting I did say to Papalii “… O Samoa ua aiga uma tagata , ua fesauta’i gafa. Peita’i a tatou Ti’eti’e loa i o tatou Nofoa o tatou o Faamasino o le Nuu e tatau loa ona tuu ese o tatou sootaga tau tino pe tau toto ma nisi lava piitaga ae faatino loa le faamasinoga tonu…”

“I did declare my relationship with the Minister M.J.C.A. to the Commission Delegate (M. Tim) at the time during the investigation.

“Papali’i already knows my connection to the Minister M.J.C.A. well before he become C.E.O. of M.J.C.A. but he did not complain or raise the conflict matter.”

“I was never involved with the Investigation as well as the Independent Assessment of the Report and Responses from Papali’i.”

Auelua also questioned why Papali’i is raising these matters now.

“Why now. If he was not happy with my behavior as he assumed, why didn’t he report that to the Chairman of the Commission or other Ministers or the P.M. as he likes writing to the P.M.?”

Auelua added that he has served the Government for more than 30 years and he continues to serve.

“I value my integrity very highly,” he said. “So given the seriousness and damaging (impact) of Papali’i’ s claims I am now considering legal action on defamation. I have made contact with my lawyer who will be arriving tomorrow (Wednesday) night to discuss the best approach on this matter.”

When the Samoa Observer contacted Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, for a comment, he responded:

“The A.G. was not involved in the P.S.C. investigation into the complaints made to that office, on this matter. Further, this office was not involved in any recommendations or the final decision to dismiss.

“The A.G. respectfully defer to the statement of the Honourable Prime Minister on this subject, that the Government’s decision for this matter has reached its final conclusion.”

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