Director of activities impeached pending judicial review
The Associated Students Board of Directors has finally come to a decision regarding the impeachment proceedings against Director of Activities, Matt Nicholson.
After being cleared of charges of misappropriation of AS funds, the board instead charged Nicholson with dereliction of duty on Monday at their weekly meeting in the Cayton Center.
Associate Dean of Student Life Sonali Bridges urged the entire board to vote on the impeachment and not abstain.
"There’s too much at stake,there’s so much going on, please make a yes or no decision, please do not abstain," said Bridges.
At one point during the vote, the board took a two minute recess and AS President Ty Moura even gave moderating responsibilities over to Vice President Kyle McGrath.
“I will pass the gavel," Moura said to Nicholson. "You are just unwilling to take responsibility for your actions right now."
After much contention and five weeks of charges and proceedings, Nicholson was officially impeached by the AS with 12 in favor, one against, and one abstention from Moura.
“What this means is the board has chosen to impeach you," said Bridges. "In order for their vote of impeachment to take place and be solidified it needs to go before a judicial board. We currently do not have a judicial board."
Despite the fact that Nicholson was impeached, he will still remain in his position as director of activities until a judicial board can be formed. The vote by the judicial board will either uphold or overrule the AS board vote, and the vote by the judicial board is final.
During the public comments, AS Director of Budget Management elect, Howard Kim expressed his feelings on the matter.
"I heard the directors voted against Matt and were making a list on
how to catch him on technicalities. I just don’t think that’s right," he told the board. He added later, "For this year and for next
year, I don’t want to be looking behind my back waiting for someone to catch me
on some technicality."
The charges brought against Nicholson for dereliction of duty were unwillingness to follow guidelines of AS events, not attending AS office hours, only hosting three events all year, and not facilitating activities meetings and not updating the activities calendar and keeping a file of all undertakings.
Throughout the proceeding, the board addressed the charges and Nicholson gave his rebuttals. Many times during the meeting, Nicholson cited Robert's Rules of Order and terms in a dictionary to defend himself against what he described as "mob rule."
According to Robert's Rules of Order, dereliction of duty is deliberate, conscious, or willful neglect. Nicholson made his case that, "An officer’s duty is defined as obeying the rules set forth by the constitutional bylaws. The charges brought against me must be proven willful neglect, and in order to convict me you must both prove willful neglect and how I violated the constitution and bylaws."
Inter-Club Council Chair Jasmine Jafari was unhappy with Nicholson's adherence to Robert's Rules and claimed that Nicholson violated Article I Section 2 rule 4 of the AS constitution, which states that directors are to "Promote a positive public image and enhance the campus environment.
Nicholson stated that he felt unsafe after the multiple charges brought against him and considered the AS office a "hostile work environment," which resulted in him being unable to attend his mandated weekly office hours.
Jafari asked Nicholson, "Did you make an attempt to request to have an alternative location for your office hours so that you could make it somewhere where you didn’t feel it was a hostile work environment?"
To which Nicholson replied, "I did not, I cite that I was emotionally distraught."
In addition, Nicholson refutes the claim that he only put on three AS events. According to him, he was responsible for Club Awareness Day, Club Olympics, AS thanksgiving, AS movie night, SMC Appreciation Day, and three Feed the Students.
A few of the events cited by Nicholson were put on last semester and according to the activity director bylaws, there is no quota or set amount of events Nicholson is required to put on.
As far as following guidelines, Nicholson acknowledged that the Feed the Students event was not perfect
"I handled the event the wrong way, I admit that," Nicholson told the board.
During the emotional deliberation, Hailie Willis, Director of Sustainability asked Nicholson "what makes you want to stay?"
“I want to be here because I want to do events and work to help the students and I feel that this is the best medium for that even if I don’t get along with all the board members," Nicholson responded.
The next step of the impeachment process is to compile a judiciary board consisting of three justices.
The next AS meeting is scheduled for Monday May 5. Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Tuitasi will be present to discuss the changes, separation, and services provided by the AS membership fee and the Student ID fee.