The Student Government supreme court decided Wednesday to postpone a decision whether to hold a hearing to review violations found after several complaints that the SG Business Office was yielding too much of its own discretion when delegating A&S Fees to student groups.
The procedures and staffing positions within the SG Business Office were brought to the senate’s attention at Tuesday’s meeting by Department of Governmental Relations and Legislative Advocacy Director David Brickhouse, who said the Business Office should be required to report to and be monitored by SG at Tuesday’s Senate meeting.
Meanwhile, SG was looking into the possible rewrite of a statute that defines the Business Office and the comptroller’s duties, dividing the office into a department for the comptroller and a department for business. Both departments would then have to report to the Executive Branch of SG.
SGAS Comptroller Thomas King, who is being held responsible, said he wanted to let the supreme court’s decision be his comment and that he felt very strongly the court’s decision would be in his favor.
“SGAS wants to communicate and work with and discuss with the legislative branch to work out the most positive result for all parties involved,” King said.
At the court’s meeting in Phyllis P. Marshall Center Room 108, Brickhouse briefed justices at the meeting and based the reasoning for the hearing on several SG statutes that were supposedly violated.
Brickhouse said SGAS is depriving the right of all branches of SG to be involved in its hiring of staff. He said SGAS has created more assistant comptroller positions than are allowed per statutes and some of their duties don’t match up with specified duties.
“They basically created three positions by themselves with really no one to hold them responsible,” Brickhouse said.
The absence of an internal auditor on SGAS’s staff was another problem, Brickhouse said. However, King said Assistant Comptroller Reyna Ugarte, who is in charge of property and purchasing, assumes that role.
“The executive and the legislature are all accountable to the students,” Brickhouse said. “SGAS, in its current form, is not. We wish to make them accountable to the student. That way, all the actions that they do take have legitimacy.”
While justices were reviewing Brickhouse’s requests, they also went over a memo written by SGAS adviser David Armstrong, which requested the supreme court postpone the hearing until its next scheduled meeting, providing Armstrong the time needed to consult with supervisers in Student Affairs.
“I would ask that you delay your decision until the next regularly scheduled meeting and provide me time to address the issues before going to the trouble of scheduling a potentially unnecessary hearing. As none of the issues presented in Mr. Brickhouse’s requests are time sensitive, I feel this is the more prudent course of action.”
After rendering its decision to hold a hearing on the case, the supreme court decided it would hold a special session to meet and decide whether or not to go forward with a hearing.
After the meeting, Brickhouse filed a motion with Williams that Armstrong’s memo be stricken from the record and from any further deliberation, stating the document contained false and misleading information unsuited for a court of law. He also recommended the court convene to decide on the hearing tonight.
“It did provide false information and was submitted to a court, so it’s basically my job to knock it down if there’s any holes in (Armstrong’s memo),” Brickhouse said.
Brickhouse said SG statutes allow for an SG-approved business manager under SGAS and also disagreed with a statement from Armstrong which said SGAS was not given notice of the requests for a court hearing until Wednesday.
Brickhouse said he was under no obligation to notify the opposing party until after the court decides to schedule the hearing.
“In theory, the fiscal coordinator and Armstrong should know (SGAS) is violating statutes and be holding them accountable, but unfortunately that has not happened.
“We realized they have three or four positions that (SG) never created,” Brickhouse said, “and then two other positions that they never bothered to fill.
“Bottom line is, this is very important for students because that office is handling the $9.3 million dollars of student fees that is collected and disbursed through student government, and without having student accountability we feel that’s unacceptable and for such a magnitude of money to be disbursed without any real accountability to the students is just unacceptable,” Brickhouse said.
Chief Justice Kevin Williams, who was just confirmed as the new chief justice replacing Misbahuddin Syed, said he could not divulge what was discussed in deliberations, but said one of the main reasons for holding back on the decision was because there were no time restraints on the case.
“The court in general feels that we should give Mr. Armstrong the time to talk to his superiors. We are understanding that this is a case of importance we’re just saying we would rather hold a decision to grant a hearing probably by next week.”
Williams confirmed Brick house’s request for an emergency meeting at 7:35 p.m. in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center tonight. The meeting’s location was not immediately known.