LAW PROVIDING FOR AN ELECTED GOVERNOR AND LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR IN AMERICAN SAMOA
United States Department of the Interior, Secretary's Order No. 3009 September 13, 1977
From 1975-1981, I worked as Staff Counsel for the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (now known as the Resources Committee) which had oversight for American Samoa. At the time, Democrats were the Majority party and the late Congressman Phil Burton (D-CA) was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Territories and Insular Affairs.
As Chairman, Congressman Burton took notice that American Samoa was the only remaining off-shore area of the United States which did not have a popularly elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor and he directed me to draft legislation making it possible for our Governor and Lieutenant Governor to be popularly elected rather than appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
On June 10, 1976, Congressman Phil Burton introduced this legislation which the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed by a landslide vote of 377 to 1. You can click here to read more about these historical proceedings that have been made part of the Congressional Record.
Instead of sending his bill to the Senate, Chairman Burton decided to consult further with the Secretary of the Interior, Rogers C.B. Morton, about American Samoa's unique political status as an unincorporated and unorganized territory which was and is unlike the organized territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands. As a result of their consultations, the two agreed that Secretary Morton would issue a Secretarial Order (No. 3009) authorizing the American Samoa Government to pass enabling legislation to provide for an elected Governor and the Lieutenant Governor.
Secretary's Order No. 3009 is printed below.
Sec. 1 Purpose. The purpose of this order is to provide for an elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor in American Samoa and to create the Government Comptroller for American Samoa in the Office of the Secretary of Interior. The electorate of American Samoa in an official referendum of August 31, 1976, voted by 3044 affirmative votes to 1366 negative votes to elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor by popular vote. Subsequently, the Legislature of American Samoa on March 28, 1977, in Special Session enacted enabling legislation to provide procedures for an elective local Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Approved by the Governor of American Samoa, as P.L. 15-23 on May 16, 1977, this law officially requested the Secretary of Interior to provide through the issuance of a Secretarial Order authority for the popular election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
Sec. 2 Election of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. In accordance, therefore, with the expressed wishes of the electorate and the subsequent action of the Legislature of American Samoa, Article IV of the Revised Constitution of American Samoa is hereby revised to provide as follows:
The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor of American Samoa shall, commencing with the first Tuesday following the first Monday, in November, 1977, be popularly elected and serve in accordance with the laws of American Samoa.
Sec. 3 Creation of the Government Comptroller. There is hereby created in the Office of the Secretary of Interior the Office of Government Comptroller for American Samoa. The Government Comptroller for American Samoa shall report to the Secretary of Interior and have such additional staff as the Secretary deems appropriate for him to discharge his duties, responsibilities and functions.
- The principal responsibility of the Government Comptroller for American Samoa shall be to perform specific and comprehensive audits of all activities, entities, and branches of the Government of American Samoa. These audits shall include but not limited to financial, compliance, management, organization and program reviews. In addition, other types of audit shall be made as appropriate at the request of the Secretary of Interior. All transactions of the Government of American Samoa shall be audited in accordance with the U.S. Comptroller General's "Standards for Audit of Governmental Organizations, Programs, Activities and Functions.'' The Government Comptroller for American Samoa shall make audit reports which will be addressed to the Governor of American Samoa. A copy of all reports will be sent to the Secretary of Interior, and by him to the appropriate Committees of the U.S. Congress. The Governor of American Samoa shall respond in writing to the findings reported by the Government Comptroller for American Samoa within forty-five (45) days from the date of each report and shall indicate what actions will be taken to correct the deficiencies noted and to comply with the recommendations contained therein.
- If the Government Comptroller for American Samoa finds that an expenditure is irregular or not pursuant to law, he may take an exception against the certifying officer. The certifying officer will be responsible for clearing the exception by recovering the expenditure or taking appropriate actions. It is required that all certifying officers be bonded and that no bond bereleased until all exceptions are cleared. Any exceptions deemed necessary by the Government Comptroller to be brought to the attention of the Secretary shall also be brought to the attention of the Chairman of the appropriate Committees of the Congress.
- An audit decision by the Government Comptroller for American Samoa may, within six months from the date thereof, be appealed to the Secretary of Interior by the party aggrieved or the head of the department or office concerned. Such appeal must be in writing and shall set forth the particular action of the Government Comptroller for American Samoa to which exception is taken, together with the reasons and authorities relied upon for reversing such decision. The decision of the Secretary of Interior on such appeal shall be final. The decision of the Secretary shall, if possible, be made within ninety (90) days from the date the appeal is received.
- As soon after the close of each fiscal year as the accounts of said fiscal year may be examined and adjusted, the Government Comptroller for American Samoa shall submit to the Governor of American Samoa, and to the Secretary of Interior an annual report of the fiscal condition of the government showing the receipts and disbursements of the various departments and agencies of the government together with his comments and recommendations. The Secretary shall submit such report, along with the Secretary's comments and recommendations, to the appropriate Committees of the U.S. Congress. Interim audits may be performed quarterly so as to complete the annual audit an report on a timely basis and to provide for the early identification of major problem areas.
- The Government Comptroller for American Samoa is authorized to communicate directly with any person or with any department officer or person having official relation with his office, and he may summon witnesses and administer oaths.
- All departments, agencies, and establishments shall furnish to the Government Comptroller for American Samoa such information regarding the powers, duties, activities, organizations, financial transactions, and methods of business of their respective offices as he may from time to time require of them; and the Government Comptroller for American Samoa or any of his assistants or employees, when duly authorized by him, shall, for the purpose of securing such information, have access to and the right to examine any books, documents, papers, or records of any such department, agency or establishment.
- In addition to his other duties, the Government Comptroller for American Samoa shall, upon the request of the Governor, provide advice and assistance to the Governor, particularly in the area of financial matters of Federal interest.
Sec. 4 Amendment of Executive Order No. 2657. Section 3 of Executive [sic] Order No. 2657, as amended, dealing with executive authority of the Government of American Samoa, is hereby superseded.
Sec. 5 Ultimate Responsibility of the Secretary. Until the Congress of the United States provides further for the civil government of American Samoa, the President of the United States, through the Secretary of Interior, has the ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Territory of American Samoa.
Sec. 6 Effective Date. This Order is effective immediately. Its provisions shall remain in effect until amended, superseded or revoked, whichever occurs first.
Reviser's Comment: Former Section 4, enacted by Secretary's Order No. 3009, Amendment No. 1, November 3, 1977, which provided for the selection and appointment of Attorney General, was rescinded by Amendment No. 2, June 27, 1978.