Undergraduate Student Government Downtown faces a complicated final few weeks, as an unpredictable impeachment proceeding against the Vice President of Services Ernesto Hernandez split the normally unified Senate.
The impeachment charge was leveled against Hernandez on April 13 in the Senate agenda, before being struck off the agenda moments later. The charge of nonfeasance remained.
He was given the charge because he was absent at over six events, a direct violation of Article 8 of USGD bylaws. This is Hernandez's second nonfeasance, which was grounds for impeachment, according to Senate Resolution 22.
Hernandez said he was not made aware of the charges prior to seeing the item on the agenda.
“I was never formally informed via email the impeachment process was going to happen. I was informed about my nonfeasance,” Hernandez said. “The impeachment process was extremely from left field.”
The issue was addressed at a Senate meeting on April 14 by USGD President Jackson Dangremond, who read an open letter explaining the situation.
"I did play the main role in calling for the impeachment as the charges brought forward are clear violations of our bylaws and when given the option to resign, VPS Hernandez elected to proceed with the impeachment trial,” Dangremond said.
He said during the Friday meeting that it's important to follow the organization's rules.
"If we do not abide by the rules in which have created or improved to hold us accountable, who will hold us accountable?" Dangremond said.
He said there should be separate personal and professional relationships for those within the organization.
Despite this, Hernandez said the ordeal could impact his friendships outside of USGD.
“A lot that was mentioned at the meeting was somewhat personal, and I think that was very unfortunate,” Hernandez said. “I do see some of these people as acquaintances after this meeting.”
Hernandez said the whole organization could learn a lesson from the entire situation.
“My recommendation to the Senate and the entire organization is to look at the bylaws,” Hernandez said. “They are a living and breathing document that change every semester, and I did miss USGD meeting because I was at conferences."
Hernandez said he felt disrespected by other members of the administration.
During the meeting, Ryan Leith brought up a meeting between Dangremond and Hernandez in which Dangremond asked him to step down.
“I felt like it was a personal attack,” Hernandez said. “It was only me and President Dangremond at the meeting; if he wasn’t there it wasn’t his business to quote anything that happened in that meeting.”
Jade Yeban, USGD chief of staff, said she emailed staff before the meeting and outlined reasons the impeachment was brought forward.
“This impeachment trial did not stem from nowhere,” Yeban said in a prepared statement. “Our Vice President of Services was made aware of his accumulating absence points on March 17, nearly two weeks before he intentionally decided to not attend our mandatory service event...."
Yeban said that the Senate was going against its core values.
“I am disappointed in the actions of our senate to not take action at all," Yeban said. "This goes against our core values and is quite frankly, unconstitutional."
Senate members are currently in talks to draft a second version of impeachment legislation, which if confirmed would be discussed at a special session held this Friday.
Hernandez does not plan on running for election next year. Hernandez attempted to appeal several of the absence points that contributed to his nonfeasance charge and could lead to his impeachment Friday.
But the chair of the committee, Martin Cordova, declined to hear the appeal due to Hernandez not notifying the committee 24 hours in advance.
If Cordova had heard the appeal it would have been a violation of Article 5, Section 1.5 of USGD bylaws, which require all agenda items to be public and finalized 24 hours prior to the meeting.
A second bill of impeachment—introduced by three senators, USGD Senate President Case Smith, Yeban and Dangremond—is set to be heard at a special session this Friday.
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