Cabinet has approved close to $170,000 tala backpay for reinstated Police Inspector Tupa’i Sapani Leleimalefaga.
This was revealed in a Cabinet Directive 21 (29) or FK dated 9 December, 2021 which was obtained by Radio Polynesia.
In 2017 Leleimalegafa was suspended; two years later his employment was terminated by former Police Commissioner, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil.
However Leleimalefaga appealed the decision which the District Court overturned after more than two years of court proceedings.
The Directive says that during its Cabinet meeting on 3 December, 2021 the issue of the backpaywas discussed and approved to be paid from the time he was suspended in 2017 up until the court’s decision in 2021, in the amount of $166,703.02.
The Cabinet Directive says the funding will come from the approved budget of financial year 2021-2022.
Minister of Police and Prisons, Faulo Harry Schuster told Radio Polynesia, the termination was deemed unlawful by the court and in his view, Leleimalefaga’s services should have never been terminated.
He added the former Commissioner should be the one to pay this money, given its his decision led to the significant backpay. He also referred to the decision as a “stupid move”.
However the former Commissioner defended his decision.
In an interview with Radio Polynesia, Fuiavaili’ili says, he stands by his decision given the circumstances and all the evidence that was before him that led to his decision at the time.
He pointed out that he shouldn’t be held liable as these decisions were made during his time as Commissioner.
Fuiavaili’ili added the case dragged out before the court with a number of postponements for over two years.
Initially Leleimalefaga was represented by Leota Ray Schuster, however the case was then taken over by Faualo, who is now Minister of Police and Prisons.
Leleimalefaga was the Commanding officer for the Faleata outpost when a complaint was launched by a Vaiusu man against another police officer over the removal of his two cows from his residence and given to another man, who claimed ownership.
The complaint reached the Police Standard Unit. In turn, Police filed charges of negligence against Leleimalefaga, for not taking any disciplinary actions against the investigation officer. This led to Leleimalefaga’s termination, which the court later overturned.