As the impeachment process of three Student Government (SG) Supreme Court members continues, only two weeks remain for the process to finish before the current term ends for SG.
So far, the process itself and the SG Senate Impeachment Committee has been the center of numerous allegations, accusations and controversy that amount to almost as many as those against the court members being investigated.
Senators discussed possibly disbanding the committee at Tuesday’s Senate meeting, expressing concerns of various procedural errors and confusion about whether the committee could legally continue its investigation.
The impeachment committee, created after allegations of “coercion,” “abuse of power” and “bias” against the Supreme Court, has itself been accused by senators of procedural errors such as not posting public announcements in advance of its first meeting and discussing committee business without an adviser present or outside of an official meeting.
After one of the three senators who originally supported the impeachment process requested to rescind his signature from the memo that started the process, the Senate was uncertain how to proceed.
While the senator, Abdool Aziz, said he wished to remove his signature because both sides had “escalated,” later allegations revealed he might have been coerced to sign the memo. Aziz later sent an email to SG advisers saying he signed the document “under duress.”
Legal opinions released Friday by the SG Attorney General stated three SG senators must sponsor a memo of impeachment, and if there is any discrepancy or uncertainty in that number, then the Senate Impeachment Committee cannot investigate. Another legal opinion stated it is within an individual’s power to remove his signature from a memo as no SG statutes indicate otherwise, but only “prior to (the) official finalization” of the document.
Senate President Pro Tempore Adam Aldridge said the Attorney General tries to leave his opinions broad for SG. The “finalization” of the memo and signatures, he said, would have to be determined by the Senate.
The Senate could either decide if the memo was finalized when it was presented to the Senate and when the committee was formed, or when the investigation finishes and the Senate meets to vote on whether the justices should be impeached.
After much discussion and two rounds of split voting, the Senate decided to end the discussion for the evening.
Masiel Pelegrino, chairwoman of the Senate Impeachment Committee, said SG would set a very poor precedent if the committee was disbanded and Aziz was allowed to remove his signature.
She compared removing Aziz’s signature from the memo to removing the Senate President’s signature from the nearly $14.7 million budget of student Activity and Service fees, which was approved just before the discussion of disbanding the committee Tuesday evening.
Senator Andy Rodriguez signed the memo of impeachment but is also in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity with Carlos Manuel Romero, a member of the impeachment committee. But said he is uncomfortable with how the process has been going.
For him, he said the controversy is taking away from the committee and suggested it be disbanded and reformed during the Senate meeting.
“The committee is not serving its purpose and is causing a lot of drama,” he said.
He still feels there was sufficient proof of unethical conduct to warrant an investigation of the court, he said. He declined to comment on what the proof was, however.
“I just hope this process smoothes out and becomes more productive,” Rodriguez said.
Though the committee met Thursday, interviewing Senate President Shyam Patel, Supervisor of Elections Sayf Hassouneh and former student body president-elect Brandi Arnold, the committee had to cancel a meeting Monday when Pelegrino received an email from SG adviser Jessica Morgan.
Pelegrino said Morgan removed herself as the committee’s adviser, meaning the committee could no longer meet, as SG statutes require an adviser at all meetings.
Morgan said all members of SG Advising, Training and Operations (SGATO) reached the decision to remove themselves from the impeachment process, but she would be present at the next committee meeting so the committee could elect a new faculty adviser outside of SGATO.
“(The process) raised larger issues of different accusations and involvement,” she said. “We’re removing ourselves from the process to facilitate the exploration of these issues and reach a resolution.”