UPDATED Dec. 17. The Tongan Health Society in Auckland has today formally sacked two board members over a controversial ‘media article’, an ‘email’ the board considered ‘racist’ and decisions allegedly made against the interest of the organisation.
Former board members Professor Sitaleki ‘Ata‘ata Finau and his wife ‘Eseta Finau have received letters on Mon, Dec 16 from the board saying they were dismissed.
Prof Finau claimed they were unjustifiably expelled and they pursued legal action. He denied all accusation the board made against him.
Lawyer Mataitini Fotu who is acting for Mrs Finau said he received her letter of dismissal today Mon 16, after the couple were orally informed on December 6 they were sacked.
Fotu said Prof. Finau has been immidiately let go after the meeting on Dec 6 but Mrs Finau was given a chance to resign on voluntary ground with an opportunity to reapply for her jobs in two years time.
Mrs Finau did not accept the board's offer.
Documents regarding their dismissal were not available but Fotu said the grounds in which the board based its decision for the expulsion included claiming the Finaus had actions that " harmful to the Society are hard to define".
Letter to Prof. Finau
The board chair Dr Malakai Ofanoa wrote on September 27 and informed Prof. Finau of actions the board believed he made against the interest of the Tongan Health Society.
He asked Prof. Finau to attend a meeting by a “disciplinary committee of the Board to discuss these matters and to hear” his views.
The letter to Prof. Finau says, “The Board believes you were involved with the publishing of the media article by Mr Melino Maka subjecting the organisation and Board to negative public scrutiny.
“There are statements in the article that could only have come from someone closely associated with the Society,” it says.
“Your emails toward the newly appointed CEO Dr Glenn Doherty are considered racist.
“Unauthorized spending and employment of surplus staff adds unnecessary pressure on an already difficult financial position of the organisation.
“You have caused strain in the relationship between the organisation and our funding agencies with detrimental effects.
“Board strongly believes you have subjected the organisation to serious risks.
Should the findings of this exercise is supportive of the allegations then there is the possibility that the Board will activate the relevant clauses of the constitution which may result in the Termination of your membership with the Society,” the letter says.
Maori GP appointed CEO
Towards the end of August an Auckland GP Glenn Doherty appointed chief executive of the Tongan Health Society.
Dr Doherty is Maori and was chosen from 15 candidates, including Prof. Sitaleki Finau, the society's acting chief executive at the time.
The board announced that "Dr Doherty is the best person for the job" and that he “has proven his commitment to the Tongan community with eight years of volunteer experience in Tonga”.
However, the Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka did not agree with the Society in Doherty’s appointment.
In August 27 a media statement released by Mr Maka titled: Bad news for Tongan Health Society, Langimalie.
Mr Maka claimed, “the Langimalie Clinic came through a hard time where at one point it has to be closed for good”.
The statement continued to say that “In 2012 the Board made a smart move and appointed Professor Finau as interim CEO. He immediately made the tough decisions and has successfully steered Langimalie back on course.”
The release says, “The Tongan Advisory Council is disturbed to learn that the successful candidate has little knowledge of Tongan people or culture, does not speak Tongan and has no proven management experience”.
Emailing on September 9, Prof Finau and ten others who signed a letter to the board chair Dr 'Ofanoa announced a 'special meeting' to be held in 10 days. They said the meeting complies with the Society’s constitution.
They called on the Tongan community to attend the meeting and to discuss issues including “The rationale for the recent appointment of a non-Tongan CEO and what process was used”.
The meeting was eventually postponed until next year 2014.
The Tongan Health Society has two health centres known as Langimalie Health Centre Panmure and Langimalie Health Centre Onehunga.
It claims to have 6000 patients and four GPs and provide high quality healthcare for all patients with what they described as “Tongan style of service”.