(SSA Board requested OEK for a settlement agreement, not OEK, corrected Senator Isechal.)
Former Social Security Administrator Ulai Teltull sued the Social Security Board of Trustees for violation of due process, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress, and libel. The suit, filed on March 1, 2023, stemmed from the abrupt termination of her employment contract on November 28, 2022, by the Palau Social Security Administration Board.
According to the suit, in October of 2022, SSA Board authorized then SSA Administrator Ulai Teltull to issue a public notice that SSA would stop payment of a $50 supplemental benefit due to lack of funding from government appropriation. Minutes of the Board meeting was attached, supporting such a statement in the lawsuit.
In response to the SSA notice, Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) wrote SSA demanding they pay the $50 supplemental benefit from SSA funding, not government appropriations. When SSA did not comply, OEK filed a Civil Action 22-110 against the SSA Board of Trustees and Administrator Teltull.
House of Delegates introduced and adopted a joint resolution expressing a lack of confidence in the former SSA Chairwoman Johanna Ngiruchelbad and SSA Administrator Ulai Teltull. The resolution called for the removal of Ngiruchelbad as chairwoman and the termination of Ulai Teltull as an administrator of the Social Security Administration. Senate did not take action on the resolution.
On November 28, the SSA Board handed an “immediate termination” letter to Administrator Teltull, terminating her as an administrator of SSA and HealthCare Fund, giving her an hour to remove her personal effects from her office and to leave the SSA premises.
The termination letter stated seven (7) reasons for termination. It cited, “Signing contracts without Board approval or knowledge, Not divulging all pertinent information to the Board, Giving false information to the leadership of Palau, Insubordination to the Board, Putting Board and administration’s reputation at risk, Loss of Confidence of the Board of Trustees and Lack of Confidence in congress.
The letter stated that “any of these conducts constitute malfeasance or misfeasance, a cause for termination.”
Before the termination of Teltull, SSA Board had met, removed Ngiruchelbad from Chairmanship, and appointed Board member Helflin Bai as the new Chairman of the Board.
Teltull claimed her Constitutional right to due process was violated by the termination letter. SSA did not follow due process in terminating her employment. She said she suffered because her rights were violated.
Additionally, she claimed that the seven (7) allegations cited for her termination did not have supporting evidence. Her attorney wrote SSA Board twice requesting supporting proof of the allegations and initially received no response. After the second request, the SSA attorney sent a letter citing only two examples, which the Plaintiff Teltull contests as false.
Teltull said that the termination of her employment was based on false accusations and asked the court to declare the termination null and void.
In the lawsuit against SSA Board, Teltull asserted that the SSA Board of Trustees breached their fiduciary duty to protect the SSA Investment Funds for retirees and contributing employees in the Republic of Palau. The suit stated that SSA law requires that any disbursement of SSA Investment Funds be actuarially based amount to protect and ensure the future sustainability of the SSA Fund.
Former administrator Teltull claims that the SSA Board of Trustees breached their fiduciary duty in terminating her contract with false accusations. This breach carries a personal liability of up to $100,000 per person and possible imprisonment.
As a result of the SSA Board’s action to terminate Ms. Teltull based on false accusations, she suffered “loss of financial security, peace of mind, future security, … embarrassment, humiliation, mental and emotional distress, and discomfort,” state the lawsuit.
Moreover, the suit claims the seven alleged “factors’ for termination constitute libel. The termination “defames, smears and debase employment records” of Ms. Teltull now and in her future “application for employment, reference in future professional, political positions or business transactions such as borrowing money or being appointed as trustee or fiduciary of funds in the future.”
The lawsuit states that Plaintiff Teltull’s reputation and character have been smeared, demeaned, and damaged through mass media and may not be able to be erased or restored based on false accusations made by the SSA Board in their letter of termination.
Finally, the suit asked that the court rule that the contract termination violates her right to due process, a breach of contract based on false accusations, a breach of fiduciary duty, a cause of emotional distress, and defamatory. As such, the plaintiff asked the court to rule the termination invalid and void, restore her contract, and compensate her for the emotional distress and libelous statements that affect her current and future prospects.
The SSA Board of Trustees members named in the lawsuit are Chairman Heflin Bai, Vice Chairman Satoru Adachi, Secretary/Treasurer Terence Ruluked, and members Evalista Kyota and Johanna Ngiruchelbad. As of the filing of the case, Johanna Ngiruchelbad had resigned as a member of the Board.
Earlier this month, Island Times reported based on the letter that the House and Senate Ways & Means Committee Chairmen wrote the SSA Board of Trustees seeking to settle the Civil Action 20-110 that they filed against the SSA Board without going to court.
In a message to Island Times, Senator Jonathan “CIO” Isechal corrected the article stating that the new SSA Board of Trustees requested Senate Legal Counsel for the settlement agreement. And that both Speaker of the House and the Senate President authorized legal counsels of both houses to work with JGA Committees, not Ways & Means to come up with a settlement agreement.