Former TEO Director comments on his removal

Aliitama Sotoa, who until last week was Director of the Territorial Energy Office, was attending a meeting of Energy Directors and officials from all 50 states and territories, under NASEO, in Washington DC, when he received an email from Governor Lolo Moliga saying that his appointment as TEO Director is rescinded.

The date of the email was February 7 and the effective date was February 9.

Sotoa says he had indicated to the administration in October of last year that he was going to resign and move into the private sector. But he was told to hold off.

Sotoa cited the email he received from Governor Lolo last week:

“It appears that significant recurring family demands, requiring your presence at home, is creating a stressful and a compromising conflict with your duties and responsibilities as the Director of the Energy Office, which necessitates full commitment of you time at the office to successfully discharge and implement mandated functions of the agency.

“On behalf of the Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga, I wish to extend to you our gratitude and our thanks for your services to the administration and to the people of American Samoa for the last four years.

Given the above, your appointment as the Director of the Office of Energy is hereby rescinded effective February 9, 2018 at close of business day.”

Governor Lolo confirmed with KHJ News yesterday that he has terminated Sotoa’s  services as Director of TEO and cited as the reason Sotoa’s continual absence due to off island travels.

The governor said he had discussed previously with Sotoa that his family and also the government and people of American Samoa that the Territorial Energy Office serves were not getting his full attention.

Lolo said he didn’t feel that the warnings given to Sotoa in the past were heeded so he made the decision for the TEO Director.

But Sotoa has a different view.

He said, “In my four years since 2014 as the Energy Office Director I have never, ever neglected the office and staff in lieu of personal matters.

“The records will show that all of my work off-island travels were budgeted, appropriated and allocated accordingly with U.S. Dept. of Energy policies that were consistent with the local office.

“All other personal travels were out of pocket which were consistent with administration policies.

He explained what happened in October of last year,

“I had a scheduled meeting with the Governor sometime in October; however, it was rescheduled due to the Governor’s NGA off-island meetings.

While off-island he (governor) directed me to meet with the Lieutenant Governor and Chief of Staff.  At that meeting I had expressed my intentions to continue with the Governor’s agenda of the Energy office; and added that I believed and was convinced that it would be more advantageous to push that agenda from the private sector. Therefore, I would suggest to move on with a transition period until perhaps during or the end of the first quarter (Jan – Mar) of 2018 which is now…”

Sotoa said at the meeting he had the separation/resignation letter on hand “to reflect all of this.”

He told KHJ News the Lieutenant Governor and Chief of Staff highly recommended and requested to hold off on the resignation letter until the Governor returns from his off-island trip.

Sotoa said a subsequent meeting was held when the governor returned to the territory with Lieutenant Governor and Chief of Staff present  to discuss his plan.

He said at that meeting  the Governor started and opened the meeting with “a humble and encouraging suggestion to leave any hurdles along the way aside and continue the good work and the duties with the office accordingly.”

According to Sotoa, no one else had any question and/or comments then.

Before the meeting ended the Governor directed the Chief of Staff to make sure that all costs from previous trips that he (Sotoa) paid for are to be reimbursed.

Despite what has transpired Sotoa was apprecitative of the chance to serve on the Lolo Lemanu cabinet.

He said, “I would humbly take this opportunity to thank the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the governor’s office, the administration and my fellow cabinet directors for the golden opportunity working with all of you serving the government and the people of American Samoa. I trust that my transition to the private sector again will help enhance the Governor’s legacy by his original Theme of “People First”; with Honesty, Integrity, Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency for the remainder of his second term.”