Am. Samoa Shipyard Authority Chairman Resigns
By B. Chen
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 4, 2013) – Chairman of the American Samoa Shipyard Services Authority Carlos Sanchez announced his resignation last Friday, a day after Gov. Lolo M. Moliga issued a memorandum requesting the resignations of Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga, Motu Laau Seui Jr., and Leilua Stevenson. A copy of the Governor's memo was given to Sanchez, who has held the chairman post since June 2011.
His resignation was announced during a celebration of the shipyard employees and management on a "job well done" on the largest vessel to date the authority has completed, the Cape Breton.
According to Sanchez, the celebration is a tradition since the shipyard was returned to ASG in June 2011 — a thank you and congratulations for the successful completion of projects. For this one, Sanchez promised three roasted pigs for the event if the work was completed on time and quality work was delivered. It happened and the celebration was on.
However, delivery of the letters or memos, calling for the resignation of three of the five board members of the ASSSA, precipitated Sanchez’s resignation announcement during the celebration.
Sanchez told Samoa News his copy and three originals for the 3 board members were delivered at 3:30 p.m. (recorded time of receipt) to the shipyard on Thursday. He was tasked with finding the 3 members, as they were not present at the shipyard when his copy and the originals were received.
Sanchez told Samoa News this means that the three members had only a half hour to receive their letters and resign. He noted that he was able to give the original letters/ memos to 2 of the 3 board members on the day after receipt, as they attended the celebration.
In his memo dated Thursday, Jan. 31, Lolo expressed his appreciation to the board members for their service to the AS Shipyard Authority and said their "contribution to the establishment of the authority and its early successful operation is noted with gratitude."
However, the Governor added, "One of the goals of my administration is to broaden the membership of some of our boards and commissions by increasing the number of appointments from the private sector, and bringing in other fresh voices on board."
The three replaced board members were ASG employees at the time of their appointments: Tuiteleleapaga was the governor’s chief legal counsel, Seui Jr. was the governor’s special assistant, and Stevenson was the director of the Dept. of Social Services.
Lolo, in his memo, went on to request the resignations of the aforementioned board members, effective immediately. He wanted the resignations forwarded to him via facsimile or hand delivery that same day. "If your resignation is not received by the end of the business day today, your service as Director will be terminated." Lolo said any Board-related records and materials in their possession should be given to the Shipyard Authority as soon as possible.
Last Friday, when the shipyard workers gathered for the celebratory luncheon they received the surprise announcement from Sanchez — their leader for the past year and a half was resigning from his post. Up until that moment, no one knew of the decision.
Sanchez first congratulated the team for a great job on the Cape Breton and the last several boats that they worked to complete. He relayed the appreciation of boat owners and industry leaders for the accomplishments of the shipyard workforce, and expressed his appreciation for their commitment to reviving the shipyard and all of their work that has now brought the shipyard to where it is today.
Sanchez then announced that he has resigned from the shipyard board effective immediately, and that a resignation letter has been submitted to the board of directors, with a separate one delivered to Governor Lolo.
Sanchez explained that a memo from the Governor, dated January 31, requested the resignation of three board members. The memo demanded resignations by the end of the same day or they would automatically be removed.
An emotional Sanchez shared with the workers that new leadership for the shipyard was forthcoming and he did not want to give anyone an opportunity to terminate him from this position so he is gladly handing it over to the new administration. He encouraged the workers to stay committed and to find the very best in them, as that is what is needed for the team to work.
Other board members who attended the luncheon were David Robinson, Toetasi Tuiteleleapaga and Motu Laau Seui, Jr.
Robinson spoke on behalf of the board members who attended and thanked the workers again for their commitment. He thanked Sanchez for his vision and belief that the project would work and credited him for the success of the shipyard and his leadership that brought the team together to revive the shipyard and also regain the trust of the boat owners, which has secured numerous dry dock and repair jobs for the shipyard.
Robinson will stay on the board to ensure transfer of responsibilities to the new board of directors when they are appointed.
Mixed with shock and sadness, the workers watched Sanchez struggle to deliver his farewell message as he was overcome with emotion. Sanchez ended the farewell with ‘his team’ by shaking hands with every worker and thanking them for their work and relationship. Workers were visibly stunned by the announcement and tears were seen on the faces of many.
In an interview with Samoa News, Sanchez said he felt that the new administration had not given any attention to the shipyard, and maybe it's because he was there. He said the shipyard is an integral part of developing American Samoa’s economy, and it needed to be prioritized. Although the original board was very successful in reviving the shipyard and securing a line of boats for repairs, the treatment that was received was one that was very disappointing and left a sour feeling.
"I have never been fired before from a project, and I saw how the three board members were treated and felt that I was going to be next, so I said to myself, I better quit before they fire me, too, for whatever reason," Sanchez said. "In business, when you succeed, you are rewarded. Here, you get fired."
Without any ill feelings, Sanchez shared with Samoa News that his departure will allow the new administration to place someone that they prefer at the helm of the shipyard. He thanked former Gov. Togiola Tulafono for giving him the trust and confidence to work on this venture, and he said he is very proud of the shipyard workers and staff.
"When many doubted that we could make the shipyard work again, we proved everyone wrong, and most of that credit goes directly to the Samoan workforce at the shipyard," Sanchez said. He said he has received countless thank yous and congratulations from many in the community, and while he had taken the credit, he is very aware of it only being possible because of the work force. He added, those sentiments of appreciation were more than sufficient as compensation for the time and effort in putting the shipyard project together.
Sanchez concluded his resignation letter to Governor Lolo by "sincerely wishing him the best of luck for the sake of the American Samoa people, the ones that he promised to put first."
Through an executive order, former Gov. Togiola Tulafono established the ASSSA in May 2011. A five-member board of directors for the management and operation of the Ronald Reagan Marine Railways shipyard was selected to govern the new government entity.
The new authority was also given jurisdiction over the management and operation including repairs of all government vessels, which had been the responsibility of the Department of Port Administration for many years.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
A five-member board of directors is to be appointed by the governor to govern the Authority. At least two of the directors shall be experienced in the management of shipyard and/or sea going vessels, at least one shall have a financial background, and at least one shall have a legal background.
Board members are to serve terms of three years but initial board members may serve terms above three years in order to achieve staggered terms. All subsequent appointments are for 3-year terms, or for the unexpired portion of a term. The governor shall fill vacancies caused by death, resignation, or removal for cause. Incumbents may continue to serve after the expiration of a term until a successor is appointed.
There is no mention in the executive order if these board members are subject to Fono confirmation, or if this new Authority will be sent to the Fono for approval.
According to the executive order, each member is compensated at $5,000 a year while the chairman gets $6,000 annually. Travel, lodging and meal expenses will be provided for directors who reside outside of the territory. (The new board members all reside locally).
The order also details powers and duties of the board, which is mandated to provide the governor a monthly operating financial statement of the shipyard as well as an annual audit report to the governor and the Fono.
Sanchez did not receive compensation for his work as acting manager for the authority.
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