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Cocco censure unlikely to lead to impeachment

The censure against student body president Jean Cocco is unlikely to lead to impeachment, according to members of Student Government (SG). 

SG Senate enacted a censure resolution last Tuesday to reprimand Cocco for holding a seat on the Local Fee Committee. 

Though the majority of SG senators voted for censure, SG Senate President Andy Rodriguez said no senators have presently indicated that they would sponsor an impeachment, which requires three signatures.

“Impeachment and censure are not necessarily hand in hand,” Rodriguez said. “It’s obviously not an impeachable offense, or something that he should be impeached for.”

Nonetheless, Rodriguez said that the senate was correct to censure Cocco. SG statutes state the student body president cannot sit on the Local Fee Committee, a committee Cocco appointed himself to on Aug. 15.

Cocco said while challenges to his seat on the Local Fee Committee play out, he will remain on the committee.

The Senate passed the statute during their final meeting last spring. 

The Local Fee Committee recommends fee increases for the Athletic, Activity and Service, and Health fees. “It’s more or less the concept that you would be representing something and then be voting back on it,” said former Senate President Pro Tempore Adam Aldridge about the new statute, on April 15.

Central to the issue is whether SG statutes can supersede Florida statutes and whether Cocco’s right to sit on the committee is an issue within SG’s jurisdiction.

On Aug. 15, the Judiciary and Ethics Committee deliberated and found Cocco in violation. 

SG Attorney General Alexander Johnson, however, said the SG statute was unconstitutional, as it conflicted with Florida law that states the student body president must nominate students for the Local Fee Committee, but does not forbid a student body president from sitting on the committee itself.

In his legal opinion, Johnson wrote that SG does not have the ability to further define state law within its own internal procedures. 

The Dean of Students Michael Freeman also said Cocco is eligible to sit on the committee and recommended that SG Senate not pursue action against Cocco.

In email correspondence with The Oracle, Freeman said Florida statutes clearly allow Cocco to sit on the committee.

However, Freeman’s involvement brought up another issue: whether SG Senate has the authority to set further limitations on the Florida statutes. 

“In terms of whether (Cocco) should sit on the Local Fee Committee, we think that’s an internal issue for the general body to decide,” Rodriguez said. 

Coco said he believes it is an external matter because it involves a committee that SG does not operate directly.

Johnson said presenting the issue to the dean of students also raised the question whether it is Freeman’s place to make a decision for Student Government.

“The man is the dean of students,” Johnson said. “The man can do whatever he wants.”

Johnson said, as a possible silver lining, SG would better clarify the boundaries of their jurisdiction. 

“We have come across another problem in that we have no delineation for what is an internal or external issue,” Johnson said. 

Rodriguez said he hopes to introduce a bill that would clearly define the difference between an internal and an external issue. 

“It might not be possible,” he said. “We need to at least try to find a way to solve this problem before it creates more.”

If Cocco does not step down from the Local Fee Committee, SG Senate will vote on whether to move forward with impeachment proceedings next Tuesday.

“I was there at the first meeting last Friday,” Cocco said. “I intend to be there this Friday.”

Both Cocco and Rodriguez said it was best for SG to move past the censure and focus on cooperation, for the sake of the student body. 

“I’ve been in contact with senate executives and Student Government advisors, and I believe the issue has become moot,” Cocco said. “I think we’re ready to move forward and serve the students.”