The Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa was right in taking back a home at the Kanana-fou compound which former General Secretary Rev. Amaama Tofaeono and his family lived in.
That’s the decision of the High Court in the lawsuit filed by the CCCAS and church reverend elders against Rev. Tofaeono and his wife.
The plaintiffs filed the suit after Rev. Tofaeono refused to vacate the home when the Elders Committee removed him as Secretary General and suspended the pastoral privileges of he and his wife, Aleluia, also an ordained minister,
In its review of the case, the court said Rev Tofaeono was entitled to the church residence he had been living in as long as he was working for the church.
According to the ruling, because the tenancy is dependent on Rev. Tofaeono’s employment as General Secretary, the court must determine his employment status with the church.
The judges spelled out that, if no employment contract exists, then an employer can terminate employment at any time as long as the decision does not violate the person’s constitutional rights.
The court gave credence to Rev. Tofaeono’s argument that he was improperly terminated, and said this implies that he harbored some guarantee that he would retain his General Secretary position.
But the court cited that the defendants made no argument at trial against summary repossession that an employment contract existed to provide such a guarantee.
The ruling said defendants not once uttered the existence of an employment contract as a basis to support their assertion that they should remain in the house because Rev. Tofaeono was improperly terminated from such contractual position.
Rather the defendants arguments of improper termination was focused on the lack of due process.
The court said Rev. Tofaeono’s employment “is presumed to be at-will,” and as such he was without contractual protection.
“Therefore the CCCAS could terminate him at any time and for any reason that does not violate [his] constitutional rights.”
The court also determined that a person is only entitled to live in the General Secretary’s house while serving this post, and living in the house ended when Rev. Tofaeono was removed from the position on March 31.
When this happened, said the court, the “CCCAS had the right to demand that the defendant vacate the house.