One of the most important responsibilities of Student Government (SG) is determining appropriate funding for student clubs and organizations. Much of this responsibility falls to the Appropriations and Audits Committee.
SG Senator Chris Johnson was fired as chair of this committee last week after the SG Senate held a vote of
Senate President Pro Tempore Abdool Aziz initiated the vote to determine whether the Senate remained confident in Johnson’s ability to make budget allocation recommendations for organizations funded by the Activity and Service fees.
“Being the Appropriations and Audits chair is a big task with lots of moving parts,” Aziz said in an interview with The Oracle. “It has a lot of direct impact on students.”
Aziz said the main issue was Johnson presenting seven budget bills inaccurately.
On Nov. 10, Johnson received a notice of non-compliance for discrepancies in how much organizations should be funded, such as miscalculating funding for the Chocolateers Club and forgetting to penalize the United Nations Student Alliance.
Aziz emailed Johnson a reprimand after catching these mistakes, though Aziz said some discrepancies slipped through the cracks resulting in organizations receiving extra funding.
In an interview with The Oracle, Johnson said the mistakes were made under a large influx of organizations requesting their budgets.
“What amounted to carelessness of documents I needed to look at and typos of the amounts that shouldn’t have gone in the bill,” Johnson said. “I still don’t really know if it was worth losing a job over.”
Aziz also said Johnson showed favoritism toward some organizations and promised money before Senate approval.
Earlier in November, Johnson pushed to allow Robobulls, a robotics club, to present to Senate for full funding of around $23,000 for mechanical parts.
“It was the largest, but one of the more credible requests this semester,” Johnson said. “I needed to get more information … they were trying to explain robotics andmechanics.”
Aziz said SG subsidizes organizations, but never fully funds them.
“All the 40 other organizations that submitted budgets didn’t get special treatment,” he said. “We never say, ‘OK, we really like you, so we’re going to forego all of our practices to get you the money.’”
Aziz said Johnson, whose position as chairman demanded an unbiased approach, met with Robobulls several times and demonstrated partiality toward the club.
“Favoritism is an issue with (Johnson) that we’ve had since the beginning,” he said. “You’re not supposed to say you like an organization or don’t like it.”
Robobulls also failed to submit their application in the right format. SG requires an excel sheet for budget requests, but received a PDF file.
“It was made a bigger deal than it should have been at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “It could have easily been resubmitted.”
Issues about Johnson working on the clock were also presented before the vote of confidence. Aziz said Johnson, who is paid 20 hours a week, had clocked in when not in the office.
“The Senate President and I are here most of the day,” Aziz said. “We see who is here.”
Johnson denied this, and said it’s not rare for him to work until 1 a.m. off the clock. Johnson also said Aziz approved of him working out of the office several times.
“He accused me of doing something he approved of me doing,” Johnson said.
On Veteran’s Day, Johnson came into the office and talked about setting up a new committee. Aziz said this qualified as a meeting, which senators are advised not to have on national holidays.
“It wasn’t recorded and there was no transcriber,” Aziz said. “The practice we try to instill is transparency.”
Johnson said the incident didn’t qualify as a meeting and called the accusation a blatant lie.
“He’s lied about several things, which is fine,” Johnson said. “He lies a lot, but he definitely dropped the ball on that.”
Accusations of unprofessional and aggressive behavior were also presented against Johnson. An SG Disciplinary Action Form filed Sept. 8 stated Johnson told an employee to keep quiet in the employee’s own office space.
“Each branch and employee respects each other,” Aziz said. “No one raises their voice. I’m not going to go into anyone’s office and tell them to be quiet.”
Johnson admitted to having been rude, but said the employee accepted his apology. Furthermore, he said the employee in question wanted Aziz to drop the complaint.
“Aziz kind of went behind their back,” Johnson said. “He took things out of context.”
Aziz said there have been multiple incidents of Johnson acting in an unruly and loud manner.
“It goes in cycles, he goes up and down,” Aziz said. “One week, he’s fine. The next week, he’s not.”
This is not the first vote of confidence against Johnson. Over the summer, Aziz said Johnson didn’t show up for work or sign budget transfers.
However, Aziz said the Senate gave Johnson another chance because he was only a first-year senator.
“If I was in his situation, knowing I was almost removed once. I wouldn’t double down on the same behaviors,” Aziz said.
Johnson said he didn’t receive notice or have any forewarning of last week’s vote of confidence. Johnson was made aware of the vote the day before.
“I kind of assumed the way I would overlook their little mistakes when they were stressed out, whether a typo or saying something they didn’t mean,” Johnson said. “I thought they would forgive my little mistakes because we’re all working toward the same goal.”
Aziz said the vote of confidence wasn’t anything personal.
Both Johnson and Aziz expressed optimism about SG Senator Michael Malanga future as the new chairman of the Appropriations and Audits.