Eastern Michigan University’s Student Government continued its dysfunction over the course of winter recess. Impeachment resolutions were filed against student government president Desmond Miller and senators William McDonald and Joseph Pernicano.
The charges against Miller were brought by senator Carl Matherly, and the charges against McDonald and Pernicano were filed by a student, Eric Santure, and were supported by senator Brianna Moore.
Currently, the resolution filed against Miller does not have a senator who signed the resolution in support of the charges which would keep the resolution from being discussed. However, the Student Senate is bound by the Robert's Rules of Order which allows amendments to be placed on a resolution, meaning any senator besides Matherly can decide to cast support for the resolution at the next Student Senate meeting to bring the Resolution to the floor.
All resolutions need to be supported by an absolute majority, which is two/thirds of the Student Senate, to proceed to an impeachment hearing. If the resolutions receive absolute majority support, Student Government vice president Steven Cole must schedule impeachment hearings as detailed in the Student Government Bylaws, Chapter 8, Section 1, Subsection d.
These resolutions are a continuance of the inability of the two branches of Student Government to work together. Student Government is comprised of two branches:
- The Student Senate, made up of students who were elected by the student body.
- The executive branch, made up of the president and vice president, who are elected by the student body and the executive board who are hired by the president. The executive board is comprised of nine positions.
The entire executive branch is paid through the Student Government budget which is funded from student fees. The Student Senate is not paid.
The charges against Miller allege he has broken his oath of office, shown disrespect to the Student Senate, verbally abused employees and officers of the senate, negatively impacted the effectiveness of Student Government and committed malfeasance in office.
“The charges stem from me asking the Senate to focus on student body issues and not external ones at a recent meeting,” Miller said. “I took an oath to work for the student body and advocate on its behalf. That's what I'll continue to do until my term is completed.”
The charges against McDonald and Pernicano allege the senators have violated state and federal laws, broken their oath of office and do not meet Mr. Santure’s criteria for student senators.
A recent resolution supported by McDonald and Pernicano called to amend the bylaws to create a new oversight committee. The committee would oversee the spending of the executive office by the Senate to ensure the budgeted money is spent responsibly and to prevent waste.
This resolution was eventually vetoed by Miller after he consulted with University General Counsel Gloria Hage and University Associate General Counsel Lauren London because they pointed out that section 4.7F of the resolution would law by withholding employees' pay.
McDonald did not comment on Santure's resolution of impeachment against him. However, McDonald said he thinks the impeachment charge against Miller was not due to recent events, but had been talked about for a long time.
"President Millers impeachment has been on the mind of senators and students since last year when he used his influence to invalidate hundreds of student votes and disqualify his opponent in order to win a second term as president," McDonald said. "His recent actions of bullying towards some students in the senate and the dereliction of his duty to represent students at faculty senate meetings this year is equally distressing."
Pernicano did not respond to The Echo’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Judicial Sergeant David Konarske is required by Student Government Bylaws to review all resolutions to make sure they are compliant with the bylaws.
In an email to Student Government members regarding Miller’s impeachment, Konarske wrote:
“I have advice to pass on to the Senate about these resolutions:
Definition of Malfeasance (Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
1. “wrongdoing or misconduct, especially by a public official”
2. “illegal or dishonest activity, especially by a public official or a corporation”
In an email to student government members regarding McDonald and Pernicano’s impeachment, Konarske wrote:
“I have advice to pass on to the Senate about these resolutions:
1. State and federal law were never violated, as the resolutions were vetoed. Since they were vetoed, these portions of the resolutions never became official policy.
2. Just as well, the resolutions both reference an affidavit student government members sign. In this document, student government members agree they are knowledgeable about student government rules and policies. This document DOES NOT mean that a member is knowledgeable about state or federal law, only the policy saying that the organization may not violate these laws.”
At a recent Student Senate meeting, Miller publicly admonished the Student Senate for not performing their duties or working hard enough for the student body. Multiple Senators have stated that Miller has locked them out of the Student Government’s offices located in the Student Center and kept them from doing work directly related to Student Government.
According to Part 13 of Section A of the Student Government Operating Policies, which was passed in September of 2013 and has been added to and amended since that time, Miller and his executive board have absolute authority to keep the Student Senate from using Student Governments' main office at their discretion.
Student Senators have said that prior to this year, they were given the key code to use Student Government's main office for Student Government business during normal Student Center operation hours.
Anjali Martin, director of media relations for Student Government, contested this statement saying senators have never had key code access.
"Two Senators did gain access after hours earlier this year, but the code was changed as a result of this because Senators are not supposed to have access to the code," she said. "The reason for this is to comply with Student Center policy and to prevent theft that may occur."
The code was changed and the senate was not notified. Currently only the Executive Branch has the key codes to open Student Government's main office.