This is the beginning of the new pagopago.com
Keep an eye on us as we grow and present more and more items of community interest.
This site has been active since 1996 and it is time for a new look!
But first, we need to spend a lot of time discussing the problems with the telephone directory. I tried for many years to bring American Samoa a quality telephone directory and I think I accomplished that. It was a difficult task and many of my friends told me I was crazy for putting so much effort into the directory. My mantra was always “If I produce a quality product it will be good for me and the community”. So, I set out to do exactly that – produce a quality product that both the community and I can be proud of.
My history of telephone book production goes back to 1967 when I produced the first-ever telephone directory for American Samoa. It didn’t amount to much because there weren’t many telephones in the territory back then. ASTCA didn’t exist then, it was the Communications Department. I don’t have a full book but one of my old friends sent me pictures of the front and back covers along with the page describing how to use a telephone, shown below. The book was supported entirely by the local business community by way of advertising in the book. Actually, there wasn’t enough advertising to support the publication, so I just spent my own money to complete the project. From that first telephone book came many years of telephone directories published by my old company Transpac and later by Pago Printers.
In the year 2000, I began producing telephone directories again for ASTCA with the first book being published in 2001. Production of the books went well for nearly 10 years. Shown below are the covers for the first six directories published between 2001 and 2008.
But, in 2010 that all changed. This website will tell the story of ASTCA’s complete failure to perform and my attempts to compel performance.
A Message From John Newton
It was 13 years ago that I found myself presented with a significant choice when the Marketing Director at ASTCA asked me to produce future telephone directories for them. I approached this proposition with a degree of caution, owing to prior challenges experienced during my dealings with ASTCA.
After a sequence of numerous meetings and email exchanges, I hesitantly consented to undertake the project. My acquiescence was, however, contingent upon receiving explicit assurances from ASTCA regarding the punctual and comprehensive compilation of directory listings. They provided their assurance that J.D. Hall, a newly appointed team member, and coincidentally, a long-time friend’s son, Roy Hall, would be tasked with the prompt delivery of the required listings. I met with J.D. to discuss his ability to deliver listings. J.D. elucidated that his role at ASTCA was the enhancement of their billing systems, which encompassed telephone directory listings. His unwavering commitment to swiftly deliver these listings convinced me to recommit to the telephone directory project.
Nevertheless, I deemed it necessary to draft a new contract due to the protracted absence of a competitive bidding process associated with the project over the years. My objective was to ensure full compliance with established procurement laws. In June, ASTCA’s in-house legal counsel, Gwen Langkilde, concurred to draft a contract, but I regrettably received no updates from her until September. During this interim, Gwen proposed alterations to the 2001 contract and disseminated an email to ASTCA management, excluding me from the communication. While the Marketing Manager shared a copy of this correspondence with me, I refrained from responding, as it became evident that Gwen intended to circumvent procurement regulations and had intentionally excluded me from the email correspondence.
Simultaneously, I diligently prepared a proposed contract for ASTCA’s consideration, sparking deliberations that spanned the ensuing thirteen years. Gwen may have harbored certain reservations regarding my contract endeavors, particularly my request for a count of listings, which she misconstrued as an insistence on listing accuracy. Furthermore, she opposed my suggestion that ASTCA should distribute a telephone directory to each subscriber. Gwen staunchly maintained the position that ASTCA could not assure listing accuracy and would not commit to delivering directories to subscribers.
The responsibility for supplying the requisite data to facilitate the production of a telephone directory, as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under ASTCA’s responsibilities, rested in the hands of J.D. Hall. Regrettably, Hall encountered difficulties in providing the data in the requisite format. In an effort to assist, I provided him with instructions and examples of past data submissions. Initially, I held optimism that Hall would acquire the necessary proficiency and eventually provide the required data.
However, my optimism regarding Hall’s cooperation was shattered when I uncovered his practice of posting ASTCA listings on his personal website and engaging in the sale of advertising to support it, thereby accruing income. From that juncture onwards, spanning at least three years, Hall forwarded incomplete listings to me, consistently proffering explanations for their inadequacies and promising to rectify them “in the near future.” This was an explicit admission of his failure to provide the essential data for the telephone directory.
During the period in which Hall was dispatching incomplete or otherwise flawed files, I made numerous appeals for assistance from Gwen Langkilde and Alex Sene, two high-ranking executives at ASTCA, in a bid to compel Hall to adhere to the stipulated requirements. Regrettably, neither of them responded to any of my appeals for assistance. There was a conspicuous absence of interest within ASTCA’s hierarchy to bring the telephone directory project to fruition.
In the year 2013, three years after the contract’s execution, ASTCA appointed a new CEO, Bill Emmsley, who promptly assigned Margaret Willis to assist Hall in preparing the listings. Margaret possessed extensive experience in the compilation of listings and had collaborated closely with me on telephone directory projects for a period of at least ten years. Margaret demonstrated her capability by expeditiously generating the two most substantial components of the directory listings within a matter of days. However, Hall failed to transmit Margaret’s work to me.
Following more than four years of endeavoring to collaborate with Hall and Gwen, I ultimately arrived at the conclusion that this endeavor was futile. As a result, I filed a formal complaint against ASTCA for breach of contract. The submission of this complaint marked the initiation of what has transpired to be an apparently unending ordeal. Throughout this period, I meticulously documented my previous interactions with ASTCA and appended these records to my complaint, offering them as evidentiary support of ASTCA’s comprehensive failure to fulfill its obligations, as outlined in the MOU. After a protracted eight-year period of striving to prosecute the complaint, the Court inexplicably dismissed all my evidence, opting for an expedient declaration that the MOU was unenforceable.
Currently, I am pursuing an appeal against the Court’s decision. However, the appeal process in American Samoa presents notable challenges. The Rules of the Appeals Court are only accessible on an unaffiliated website that has not been updated for a considerable duration. My inquiry regarding the composition of the Appeals Court yielded varied responses, including an admission from the Clerk of Court that he lacked knowledge in this regard. One of the crucial steps for the appellant involves obtaining an estimate of the cost associated with ordering trial transcripts from the court reporter. I have initiated this process, but I have been informed that my filing of the Notice of Appeal triggered this request, and the court reporter is presently indisposed due to illness.
Regrettably, Gwen’s misapprehension of my request for a count of listings persisted throughout the duration of the contract and endured during the subsequent trial, spanning a period of thirteen years. To exacerbate matters, the court accepted this misunderstanding as part of its Opinion and Order against me.
Throughout the trial, I perceived that I was confronted with discrimination from the outset and in the days preceding it. The presiding judge, Kruse, prohibited Gwen from testifying in an open courtroom owing to her present role as a judge, and instead ordered a deposition. Contempt and discrimination persisted throughout the trial proceedings. Late on the second day of the trial, prior to my opportunity to testify in my own defense, Kruse unexpectedly announced that there would be insufficient time to continue the trial on the following day, thereby leaving the timeline in a state of uncertainty. Rather than contesting this decision, I instructed my counsel to pose a single question: whether I had ever received listings for post-paid cell phone subscribers. My response was in the negative, which prompted us to conclude our case, as ASTCA’s failure to provide these listings constituted a conspicuous breach of contract.
However, to our bewilderment, Kruse disregarded the evidence of the breach and opted to question the validity of the contract itself. In his final ruling, he deemed the contract unenforceable, notwithstanding its comprehensive preparation by ASTCA’s in-house counsel, endorsement by the Executive Director of ASTCA, my own signature, and its effective implementation since 2010, without any prior indication of enforceability issues.