Because he neglected to submit a budget that would fund next year’s Student Government (SG) election, the SG Senate served its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with a censure during Tuesday night’s meeting.
During the meeting, SG senators voted to censure CFO Zachary Johnson for neglecting to submit next academic year’s budget for the Election Rules Commission (ERC), which runs SG elections. They also passed new legislation that protects the ERC budget from facing future monetary penalties for being submitted late.
Khalid Hassouneh, Senate president pro tempore, sent an e-mail to senators before the meeting to let them know what to expect in the chambers.
“It recently came to our attention that the (ERC) failed to submit an Annual Budget request,” Hassouneh, a junior majoring in medical technology said in the e-mail. “As per statutes, (the) Activity and Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) cannot accept a belated budget, however … not accepting the budget will result in a series of consequences that will negatively impact the next year’s ERC and would punish them for (the) actions of this year’s administration.”
ASRC Chairwoman Rachel Brown said that all budgets were due to her committee by Dec. 17.
“When I got back the week before classes started and I went for all the budgets for Student Affairs and Student Government, I realized the ERC had not yet submitted a budget,” she said. “Per statutes, financial officers are responsible for annual budgets. According to statutes, Mr. Johnson is a financial officer for all of Student Government.”
Brown submitted the legislation to the Senate that grants ASRC the right to accept late budget requests without penalty as long as they are turned in by the end of February.
“If we don’t accept the budget now, it would be treated like a student organization budget submitted late,” she said. “So it couldn’t be accepted until July 1, and they would receive a 25 percent cut. It would unnecessarily punish the ERC for next year.”
Johnson, a senior majoring in chemical engineering who provides oversight on all SG budgets, said he takes full responsibility for the issue.
“As a Student Government, we need to make sure we live up to those standards of accountability and transparency,” he said. “The chief entity is responsible for the creation of that budget. It’s not written in statutes verbatim that the ERC supervisor’s responsible for it. I do agree that I should have taken an extra step to make sure that the past supervisor (Christopher Leddy) submitted it, but unfortunately he didn’t do that and there was a complication.”
The Senate’s vote to censure Johnson is “a resolution passed by the Senate in lieu of impeachment. It is a written reprimand given to an official whose actions may have warranted impeachment, but the Senate felt impeachment or removal from office was not necessary,” according to statutes.
The Senate did not pass any resolutions that would hold agency directors, like Supervisor of Elections Andrew Uhlir, a junior majoring in political science, accountable for the annual budget. However, Brown said that legislation may be on its way.
“I think in the future we will write it in,” Brown said after the meeting. “For agencies, it does say the director is responsible for the annual budget, and for senate, the appropriations chair is responsible. This year, we needed someone to be held accountable so we could accept the budget.”
While Uhlir will not be held responsible for the previous supervisor’s actions, he said he will accept any responsibility in the future if the Senate chooses to change annual budget statutes.
“That’s something that I’m fine with,” he said.
He said he will look at the budget, which was prepared by former supervisor Leddy, to check for any errors before submitting it by Feb. 25, the deadline given by Senate.