Senate changes statutes for upcoming election

After students raised concerns about the Oct. 13 Student Government senate election, the senate voted to amend SG statutes Tuesday to ensure the election’s legality.

The senate voted to remove senate President Jennifer Belmont from overseeing the upcoming election to fill 23 vacant seats and appointed SG Adviser Gary Manka, SG Office Manager Judy Pollock and an SG graduate assistant to oversee the election.

According to SG statutes, the Election Rules Commission (ERC) “oversees the execution and logistics of all SG elections.” However, the ERC is not in session and will not be formed until the end of October or early November.

The senate approved a statutory amendment that says because the election was called for prior to the formation of the ERC, Manka, Pollock and the assistant will assume the responsibilities of the ERC for the Oct. 13 election.

The senate also voted to refer to the Oct. 13 election as a “midterm” election instead of the previously used “interim” election. Interim elections are held monthly to fill any open senate seats, according to SG statutes.

On Sept. 8, the senate passed a resolution that originally gave Belmont the power to oversee the election.

SG Attorney General Cordell Chavis said the reason Belmont was originally chosen to oversee the election was because there is no ERC in session.

At a Sept. 8 senate meeting, former senator Richard Shockley asked about the legality of the election. Chavis said the SG statutes regarding the ERC did not apply in the election.

On Sept. 22, former SG presidential candidate Christopher Leddy said the election was illegal because Belmont was overseeing it instead of the ERC.

Leddy then called for the impeachment of Chavis because he approved of Belmont governing the election, Leddy said.

Leddy and Shockley submitted a memo of impeachment to senate President Pro Tempore Matthew Diaz after a Sept. 22 senate meeting, Diaz said.

“Mr. Chavis issued a rather confident opinion in blatant disregard to the constitution and statutes of USF’s Student Government,” said Leddy in the memo of impeachment. “This ‘legal opinion’ recklessly led to senate’s passing of (the resolution).”

In the memo, Leddy requested the impeachment of Chavis on the grounds of “incompetence and malfeasance.” According to SG statutes, malfeasance is defined as the “commission of a wrongful or unlawful act involving or affecting the performance of one’s duties.”

“I just want the student body to be aware of what’s going on, that’s the whole purpose for doing this,” Leddy said. “When there is a paid official who’s not doing their job, I think it will help with accountability to let the students know what’s going on.”

At Tuesday’s senate meeting, the senate elected a three-member committee to investigate the charges against Chavis.

The members of the senate impeachment committee – senators Kelly Budnick, Alicia Stott and Jeremy Burns – were voted onto the committee.

A chair will be appointed for the committee at its first meeting which is being held next week, said SG adviser Gary Manka.

“It’s pretty much going to be up to the committee to decide what to do with this memo, if they’re going to follow with the proceedings or if they are just going to throw it away and not find grounds for impeachment,” Diaz said.

The senate impeachment committee will discuss the memo of impeachment and vote on whether it “warrants investigation,” according to SG statutes. If the committee chooses to continue with the investigation, it must write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and have it approved by the senate.

“If the senate feels that something was done that was unjust, then by all means as Attorney General I encourage them to keep going forward (with the investigation),” Chavis said.

Manka said he will oversee the senate impeachment committee.

“I try to make sure all the facts are laid out,” Manka said. “I really don’t get involved unless I feel that there are certain things not being done properly or there are certain things being held back.”

If the committee decides one or more of the memo’s charges are valid, it will create the official articles of impeachment, Diaz said.

During the next senate meeting, the committee chair would read the articles of impeachment to the senate and then the senators would discuss the articles, according to SG statutes.

After discussion, the senate would vote on whether or not to impeach Chavis on each charge. To be officially impeached, a majority vote from the senate is needed on at least one of the charges.

“I think I didn’t do anything wrong,” Chavis said. “I personally don’t think that they’re going to go forward with (impeachment). But it’s up to them.”

– Additional reporting by David Downs