The Student Government Association saw an unusual frenzy Thursday night as five senators fought against their own impeachment.
The weekly meeting, which received a massive turnout of students to watch the proceedings, presented the cases of Sen. Kayle Boyd of the University College; Sen. Aysa Cobb of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences; Sen. J.C. Mason III of the College of Business; Sen. Deja Watts, an At-Large senator; and Sen. Bryauna Wilson of the College of Liberal Arts.
The hearings came just days before elections for the Student Government Executive Board and Senate, which will be held April 8 through 11, 2019.
Each impeachment was due to a breach in the SGA constitution regarding absences. According to Article V, Section 2, Subsection F of the SGA Constitution, “Any elected senator who shall have three (3) unexcused absences from meetings of the Senate in one semester or two (2) consecutive unexcused absences shall appear before the Internal Affairs committee to show just cause why he/she should not be impeached. After hearing the Senator’s case, the Internal Affairs committee shall vote on whether to send the matter to the Senate for impeachment. If approved, a hearing will be held before the full Senate following the procedures set forth in Article X.”
“It could be interesting,” said Sen. At-Large Kobe Hermann prior to the meeting. “They (the senators up for impeachment) shouldn’t have been approved for candidacy based on absences, which means that the Vice President of Campus Relations, who serves as the Election Commissioner, could also have broken rules by approving their candidacy.”
Chloe Brandon, who also happens to be the twin sister of President Courtney Brandon, serves as the current Vice President of Campus Relations and Election Commissioner.
Boyd was the first case presented. She argued that she should not be impeached for these absences, which occurred in early 2019, because although she admitted that she should not have been absent, she had already been approved to run for re-election for her office. This, as stated previously, is not allowed if the senator is in danger of impeachment.
“I was informed I was eligible to run for a senate position, so I feel like it’s improper to try and impeach me now because I’m in the process of campaigning (as a) senator for the University College,” Boyd said. “And also trying to impeach me reflects poorly on SGA’s behalf, because I was told I was already eligible to run, so I should have been told I was ineligible to run (because of) the absences.”
When asked when she was notified of her possible impeachment, Boyd replied that she was notified less than seven days ago – as opposed to her approved application for re-election, which she turned in on March 18, 2019. This discrepancy only mounted the confusion as to how these absences fell through the cracks.
Hermann tried to pin down the issue, asking, “Is it the Vice President of Campus Relation’s duty to judge whether a candidate for senator is eligible?”
Delanie McDonald, executive vice president and speaker of the Senate, did not have an answer for this, as she was unsure who’s responsibility this was.
McDonald was also questioned as to the role of Secretary Lena Russomanno – who was absent at the time – in this issue. She responded that she was unsure how issues like this were handled in the past and was also unclear on Russomanno’s role in reporting absences, as “the secretary’s duties are slightly vague … It (the Constitution) doesn’t actually say who is responsible for sending the number of excuses.”
The hearing continued on in the same way. Questions were asked to why the number of absences were not noticed earlier, instead of mid-election and how Boyd was approved for re-election with this issue on her record.
McDonald stated repeatedly that this was a “gray area” of the rules, and she was unsure whose responsibility this should have fallen too.
Although the fact remained that Boyd did indeed miss the impeachable amount of days, and did not provide excuses for such days, the number of discrepancies within the case swayed the Senate. Boyd was cleared of impeachment with an overwhelming vote in her favor.
The second hearing, that of Cobb, raised even more discrepancies. Although Cobb admits to being absent one of the mentioned days, she claims she has video proof of her attendance of the second debated day and questions why she was considered absent.
McDonald admitted that human error can occur and repeated that there was quite a “gray area” where the reporting of these records are concerned.
When Cobb was asked by another senator why she did not present this evidence to the Internal Affairs Committee, Cobb explained that she was given less than 24 hours notice for the meeting and was unable to make it due to the time constraint. This was denied by Ally Cherry of Internal Affairs, stating that the emails were sent 36 hours before the meeting.
Cobb stood by her statement, and the impeachment was also voted against with a strong majority.
The next two hearings, that of Mason III, who is running for election as vice-president of marketing, and Watts, who is running for vice president of campus relations, both focused on medical leave.
Emergency medical reasons are one of the few excused reasons for absences. Mason claims that his was due to a vehicle wreck and Watts due to continued illness.
Watts even provided documentation of her illnesses and stated that she had spoken with Russomanno about the absences within the approved time period. Watts also stated that she was unaware that her paperwork had not been registered properly, contrary to what Russomanno had said. Watts presented this to the Internal Affairs Committee.
Mason also stated that he was unable to attend the Internal Affairs Committee, as he was notified less than 24 hours previous.
This was once again denied by Cherry, stating that all email notifications had been sent 36 hours before.
Both Mason and Watts were cleared of impeachment.
The final hearing, that of Wilson, followed much of the same route with similar questioning. Wilson was also cleared of impeachment after a lengthy debate.
Although the senators all escaped impeachment, opinions remain sharply divided as to whether justice was carried out. And regardless of the closing of these cases, the questions about SGA’s accountability raised during the hearings continues to pose concern for many of the students in attendance.
To contact News Editor Angele Latham, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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