Never before has Student Government had to review its statutes that outline terms for impeachment. And while SG has been in the spotlight for the past week as impeachment is considered for its highest-ranking officials, it’s not the first time the organization has been in USF news for not following the rules.
In November 1989, then USF president Francis T. Borkowski shut down SG when former SG senate president Marybeth Jaron changed the procedures for assigning senate seats by only considering students with declared majors in each college, according to the Oracle’s archives.
This caused the College of Business to lose six senate seats. At the time, a large part of the senate consisted of students who only declared an intended major.
Borkowski changed all the locks, fired senate leaders and suspended SG’s budget, constitution, statutes and rules for procedure, which were allowed under the Florida statute 240.227. The statute states that “the president is the chief administrative officer of the university and is responsible for the operation and administration of the university … (and he or she) shall organize the university to efficiently and effectively achieve the goals of the university.”
In addition, Borkowski also thought the SG student body president Darbi James and the senate had an inability to confirm candidates for the SG Supreme Court.
James recommended seven candidates for confirmation by the senate but only five were approved.
Borkowski sent SG a letter saying that the problems in the organization were only getting worse. So in order to investigate SG, a committee of students, faculty and staff was formed to take an in-depth look at SG and its branches.
It seems the solution to the problems, past and present, in SG is to form an investigation committee. Though the statutes call for an investigation committee for impeachment proceedings, back in 1989 a committee was also formed to look into the matters of SG, as well as to judge the character of those involved.
The current committees say they are only taking into consideration student body president Omar Khan’s, vice president Ryan Morris’ and former director of marketing Bishop Taylor’s characters for background information which will not be used to make the final decision. Senators believe that, ultimately, impeachment is unlikely. But background information is sometimes needed to determine if the actions are valid. In this case, it is Taylor’s termination and the violations he later brought against Khan and Morris.
Still, the present investigation and the shutting down of SG are not the only instances that SG has held character examinations.In March 1991, senators ousted new SG cabinet members to examine the line between the executive and legislative power. A senator was also being charged with SG ethics violations and the structure of the senate was challenged.
The SG senator investigated was on the budget review committee and was trying to use his position to get news coverage in The Oracle.
The investigation of Khan and Morris resembles that of 1991. They are being charged for violating 11 SG statutes, which include the hiring and firing of statute-mandated cabinet positions. In 1991, the cabinet members were looked at because the senate wanted to decide who had the power in appointing the new cabinet.
Taylor, who was terminated Sept. 8, has alleged that Khan and Morris did not properly advertise for the positions of chief of staff, director of executive affairs and director of student lobbying. Back in 1991, the senate ousted the new cabinet members when their positions became questionable instead of forming a committee.
The impeachment statute has never been looked at or amended after several similar incidents.
In addition, SG is now starting to investigate senate budget committee chairwoman Sandy Lagoute for malfeasance and violating Sunshine laws by not allowing people to attend open budget meetings.
Will the current cases lead to stronger guidelines for the impeachment statute?
Ryan Caruso, senate president, has said in interviews that SG will have to rewrite the entire chapter that addresses impeachment and make guidelines stronger. But if improvements aren’t enough or cause complaints, administration has decided to let the students work it out on their own.
Michelle Carlyon, a USF media relations representative, said USF President Judy Genshaft decided that the current investigation is a student matter and administration will “respect” the students’ course of action.
Caruso said he hopes that by re-working the statutes it will fix any inconsistency and make the system more workable and allow the students to get back to their duties as senators and to their classes.
But for the past week, the impeachment process has dominated the duties of the 10 senators involved in committees and the five who are investigating the case regarding the budget chairwoman, rather than student representation issues.
Tonight the investigation should come to an end at the SG senate meeting as the two investigation committees will give the senate its recommendations on the impeachment of Khan and Morris.
The senate will determine whether the charges are valid. If SG recommends that they are indeed valid, the senate is forced to vote on the 11 SG statutes, which Taylor alleges Khan and Morris violated. They must pass by a two-thirds vote in order to recommend impeachment. If not, the impeachment proceedings end there and are considered to be groundless.
Or do they?