For the first time in decades, members of the Sam Houston Student Government Association collected ten senator signatures on a petition Tuesday to impeach SGA Vice-President Christopher Yancy. The announcement was made at the weekly meeting in LSC 315.
“I think, given the fact it was an obvious tense situation that any group would have difficulty grappling with, for the most part, everybody handled themselves at least within the context of what they’re supposed to and once we sort of challenged everybody to examine themselves, it came back to where it was supposed to be,” Dean of Students and SGA advisor John Yarabeck said. “I’m confident and have belief that the senators will conduct themselves professionally with this as it moves forward and we expect them to support and abide by the [SHSU] Supreme Court’s decision and look at it as an opportunity to look for ways to improve the way the Senate is being conducted.”
The trial is set for Dec. 1. President Michael Perkins will preside, with a senate vote. A SHSU Supreme Court has been created, and will be called only if Yancy appeals the procedures in the trial.
“I don’t really have an opinion about the trial or anything,” Perkins said. “I have to remain as unbiased as possible. I don’t think it’s good for organizations — any time an officer is being considered for removal, it’s bad for the organization. It’s something I hope we deal with as soon as possible and we hope all rules and procedures are followed to a ‘T’.”
Yancy faces malfeasance charges, defined in the petition as “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used esp. of an act in violation of a public trust).” He also faces charges of dereliction of duty, defined as “willful neglect, as of duty or principle”, and gross inefficiency or “a: not producing the effect intended or desired b: wasteful of time or energy.”
“I think some of these accusations or charges are definitely not true,” Yancy said. “I think that these accusations could have been prevented. I think they are definitely damaging internal relations between senators, officers and chiefs within the SGA unnecessarily [with] the filing of an impeachment.”
The impeachment process is defined in SGA’s Rules and Procedures, listed under Rule 16: Impeachment Procedures. Subsection A states that “all elected and appointed students by the Sam Houston State University Senate shall be liable to removal from office through the impeachment office.” The accused, according to the Rules and Procedures, are granted all rights of due process including a fair and speedy trial, counsel, prepare defense, witnesses, and protection against self-incrimination. The Attorney General will act as prosecutor and the Student Government Association president will act as presiding officer. To be convicted, there must be a two-thirds vote of the present and voting Senate. If convicted, Yancy will be automatically removed from office. He may appeal the decision in the school’s Supreme Court.
“It’s like the court system- you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Yarabeck said. “As far as I know, it was done in [accordance] to the SGA Constitution.”
The petition includes specific citations over the last semester against Yancy. Citations listed under malfeasance include “legally unjustified threats of removal for non-compliance of orders,” “harmful behaviors in a public setting with students and administrators present,” “restricted elected Senator from exiting SGA office,” and “making false reports of potentially harmful behavior to another senator about a person in SGA in a leadership role.”
Under the dereliction of duty charges, he faces citations in “neglecting to consult other officers on the appointments of E.S.A.’s [executive student assistants] as written in the constitution, “neglecting to consult treasurer on the issue of E.S.A. wages” and “neglecting to efficiently schedule the E.S.A.’s and ignoring budget constraints.” Yancy was also accused of “failure to orient the Senate about changes to the Rules and Regulations at the beginning of the fall semester 2008” and “failure to orient new Senators about Rules and Regulations and the Constitution in a timely manner at the beginning of the fall semester 2008.”
The gross inefficiency charges cite “needless waste of student funds regarding hiring sustainable number of E.S.A.s”
E.S.A.’s function as desk secretaries in the Student Government office, and according to Chief of Student Afairs Jenny Zehentner, there are currently five on the payroll.
All charges were accompanied in the petition by Constitutional and Student Code of Conduct citations, providing specifics as backing for claims made against Yancy.
“If the truth is going to come out, then I want everybody’s truth to come out, you know, I want everybody to be responsible and be accountable,” Yancy said. “I’m not doing it to try to slander anybody’s reputation or credibility.”
“I believe [the accusations] are very dangerous to my credibility with Sam Houston State University administration, faculty, staff and students” he said.
At the regular SGA meeting Tuesday night, SGA President Michael Perkins formally announced the impeachment charges during the New Business portion.
As head of Internal Affairs, Yancy distributed copies of the SGA Constitution as well as the Rules and Regulations to members who then signed a sheet to affirm that they received the policies and procedures during the meeting. He also pledged to the Senate that he would take care of his responsibilities and apologized for past problems.
“I’d really like the students to know that no matter what happens, what the outcome of the situation is, I will still always be a student advocate, no matter if I have this position or if I don’t have this position. I’ll always strive to be involved on campus,” Yancy said.
At the meeting, Yancy also proposed the “Sense of the Senate F08-04”, which was then moved and seconded to be sent back to the Internal Affairs committee. The bill concerns Student Government’s welfare as an organization, proposing to strengthen internal relations, participate in counseling or group mediation therapy, be receptive to attending leadership development and team building workshops and examples of activities to act as said team building activities.
During the Open Forum portion of the meeting, several non-senate visitors spoke for Yancy’s character and commented on the behavior of senators during the meeting. One visitor voluntarily left rather than be escorted out of the proceedings after throwing a plastic bottle.
“They’re sort of in your face format [in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order] when that happens and tempers did get a little short on occasion but really the only one [that] was out of control was an observer,” Yarabeck said.
“I spoke after that happened and asked everyone to examine themselves and remember everything that they’re supposed to be doing and represent as student body,” Yarabeck said. “I asked them to take a deep breath and after that happened, everything was fine.”
According to Perkins, the University Police Department has been alerted of the incident, and there will be law enforcement at the trial.
“We strive to have unity in our meetings; we don’t like outbursts and whenever there is inappropriate nature from anyone in the meeting, they will be removed from the meeting,” Perkins said. “What the gentlemen did – throwing a bottle at one of the Senators – was totally inappropriate,”
Charges will be placed in the SGA office’s window, according to Perkins.
“We’ll try everything possible to let the public know what’s going on,” Perkins said. “We’re not hiding anything. First and foremost students know what’s happening with the people who represent them.”