Pattern of “harassment” leads Senate President to motion for impeachment

Cody Quattlebaum

UPDATE – 11/13/14 at 1:48 a.m.

The Spinnaker received the following emails sent to all senators and members of the Legislative branch and copying all members of SG. The first email is from Student Body President Joseph Turner at 2:56 p.m. on Nov. 12, the second from Senate President Kaitlin Ramirez at 1:18 a.m. on Nov. 13. Contact information was removed from the emails pasted below – no other alterations were made.

From: <Turner>, Joseph Turner
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 2:56 PM
To: STU-SGA-Senators, STU-SGA-Legislative-Branch
Cc: STU-SGA-All
Subject: In regards to recent events

Good Afternoon Senators,

The motion of impeachment filed against Attorney General Harris is baseless. No copies of the articles were disseminated Monday evening. We do not have, at this time, a justification for this motion. I do recall however Ms. Ramirez stating Attorney General Harris appointed a Lieutenant Attorney General. This could not be more incorrect, if Ms. Ramirez would have simply brought her concern to me I would have given her the same explanation I give here. Several weeks ago, Daniel Koker spoke to me about getting involved in the Executive Branch. He mentioned specifically that he was interested in our legal processes. I then spoke to the Attorney General and found that he had need for assistance with office tasks. At this point, I offered to allow Daniel Koker to volunteer his time to assist our organization, which he began to do shortly after. As lieutenant Attorney General, Daniel Koker volunteers several hours a week and assists the Attorney General. He is unpaid in his current post and has no independent authority.

The executive branch is proud to have a strong volunteer staff, without which we would be unable to accomplish our mission of efficiently and effectively serving the student body. Both executive agencies along with the Lend-A-Wing food pantry have many volunteers. Long standing precedent, along with  statue, dictates that unpaid volunteers who exercise no independent authority do not require confirmation by the senate or notification of the Senate President. However, there is an argument to be made that volunteers are executive branch members as well and as such must be confirmed. I have introduced a bill that was on first read on Monday evening that would clarify this going forward. In the mean-time, if you feel that the executive branch is being anything less than transparent or doing anything incorrectly I would advise you to file a request for judicial review.

Furthermore, I would like to state that this motion for impeachment is wrong and blatantly in violation of the rights of an individual to due process of the law. Holding an impeachment hearing for an individual without that individual having been first found guilty of any violations is inappropriate. Doing so would imply guilt when none had been determined, and would be a brash emotional decision. Impeachment is a corrective measure and not a process through which guilt is established.

Lastly, I feel that due to the events of recent months we have been unnecessarily sidetracked from the purpose that we all came here for. We all came here for the same reason, to make this university a better place for ‘we the students’. This should all be easily resolved through mature and civil discussion; however, the Senate President has been unwilling to have any such conversations. The Senate as a whole and you as individuals have done nothing wrong. None of the circumstances surrounding this unnecessary drama have been in response to any of your actions. All of this rests squarely on the shoulders of the Senate President and it is wrong for her to constantly drag you all into this.

In the emergency meeting on Monday Ms. Ramirez will attempt to have a majority vote cast by you all in favor of having an impeachment hearing for the hardest-working most honorable member of my staff. I urge you all to see through her petty games, and allow this organization to get back to doing what we came here to do.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Joseph Turner

Student Body President

University of North Florida

_________________________________________________________

From: Ramirez, Kaitlin
Date: Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 1:18 AM

Subject: Re: In regards to recent events
To: STU-SGA-Senators, STU-SGA-Legislative-Branch
Cc: STU-SGA-All

Dear Senators,

I must admit this has taken me a bit of time to realize, but it has finally dawned on me that this is all aimed at me. And so I ask the question, Why? I have never had anything bad or negative happen between Joe, Matt or I. So I’m trying to understand the reason for this personal attack against me.

As all of you are aware, I was first brought up on noncompliance for a confusing statute that’s been in effect since I was in high school. Why bring this against me when I had nothing to do with it? Now, common sense would dictate that if this or any other statute needs clarification, anyone of us would have gotten together and worked out the confusing statute.

But instead, I was brought up on noncompliance; and not just Turner v. Ramirez or Student Government v. Ramirez, but STATE v. Ramirez. It was Joe, Matt and Danny against me. I had to put aside my studies, spend countless hours getting the materials and paperwork that this all entailed. And in the end, even though it was shown that the statute was confusing, I was found guilty.

We then proceeded to make corrective measures so that this does not happen to anyone else (Sergeant-at-arms Rader sponsored the bill, Senator Grantham helped present, we even had important deliberation on some grammatical phrasing.). But Joe vetoed it.

Now, the very same person, Matt, who determined that noncompliance charges should be brought against me, has now decided that perhaps elections should happen not according to what has been in our Constitution, but should now be held when he thinks it should – according to his interpretation of what ‘annually’ means. Funny thing, this would affect me and our cabinet.

Why did I ask for impeachment for Matt? The facts are, in the rush to bring me up on noncompliance charges, Matt and Joe decided that they needed assistance and so they got a ‘volunteer’ (see the attached document showing that volunteer was ordained by Matt on Monday, October 6th, two days before my noncompliance hearing on Wednesday, October 9th). Also note that this ‘volunteer,’ Daniel Koker, was an Associate Justice who resigned from his Associate Justice position so that he could become a ‘volunteer.’

The only person with the authority to create a position in the Executive Branch is the Student Body President, per Chapter 301.1 subsection F:

Chapter 301: Composition of the Executive Branch

301.1   The Executive Branch shall be composed of:

  1. Other Cabinet offices that the President deems necessary

Further, Chapter 302.1 and 302.2 outlines only the President and Vice-President have the authority to act, and President has the sole power of appointment:

Chapter 302: The Executive Branch

302.1   The Executive Branch derives its authority from the President and has no authorization, power or authority to act unless specifically granted by the President or Vice President.

302.2   The President has sole power of appointment within the Executive Branch and may dismiss at his/her discretion, any appointment at any time with the exception of Treasurer and Attorney General.

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 1.38.48 AM
Section of the document creating the Lieutenant Attorney General two days before Ramirez’s hearing on Oct. 8.

The attached document shows that it was actually Matt who illegally created this volunteer Lieutenant Attorney General position. It’s black and white, no amount of volunteer scenarios can take away from what our statutes state.

Even if I wanted to file noncompliance instead of impeachment against Matt for what he had done, I could not because of a flaw in our process which is, Matt would have to decide merit on his own case. Matt would not be able to recuse or excuse himself and let someone else decide. So the only action that could be taken was to bring impeachment charges based on his vacuous and fabricated interpretations of our bylaws and statutes that no other Attorney General has ever entertained.

If there is anyone any of you would want to be unbiased, it would be our law enforcement. But when the few people in this branch decide that they don’t care by what means they accomplish their personal agenda, then there is something wrong. How it came to be that I became the bulls-eye for these individuals, I do not understand. I can see if we had personal dealings and perhaps someone got slighted. But I do not know these people personally, so for this hatred and harassment to be aimed so squarely against me will require outside assistance.

Joe has made it abundantly clear on numerous occasions that this is all aimed at me, not anyone else. It has taken me a while to finally get that these are personal attacks against me and not my branch, even though he, Matt, and Danny have stated that many times on the record.

Again, Joe does not know me personally and for him to speak for me in his email is incredible. Let me make this clear, the Senate emergency meeting is to validate the Fall elections. Unfortunately, Monday night’s Senate meeting was adjourned improperly and if the new Senators are not validated, we will be out of compliance and the Senators that the students voted for will not be able to serve. Nothing else will happen at this meeting.

I do not know Joe, Matt, or Danny personally, so I am confused by the hatred and animosity aimed at me. This is all depressing. We are all supposed to work together for the students. We are here for just a few years and most of us have extremely busy lives. All of our energy should be focused on making a difference as students and in our jobs.

I have been extremely patient in the face of all these personal attacks but there comes a time when we all must be held accountable for our actions. None of us should be forced to be nice to anyone because we’re afraid of the power that a person has or wields, and respect goes two ways. None of us are above the law and none of us should be allowed to make another student’s life miserable for personal glory or agenda.

I did not create any of these events that have sidetracked us, but I have had to spend and continue to spend countless hours dealing with them. I cannot begin to stress how distressing this all is. I sincerely hope that all these distractions come to an end. I hope the people involved stop with these attacks and put that energy into the good that we can do and our normal duties. At this point, it doesn’t matter where your personal allegiance lies, all I can ask is that you deal with the situations with facts.

I would love to hear from you for any guidance or advice you can offer me in this situation. Remember, an educated Senator is the best defense. My continued thanks to all you for you support and my hope is that we all stay strong and do the right thing for our beloved school and fellow students.

Kaitlin Ramirez

Senate President of Student Government

University of North Florida

***

Monday’s senate meeting started 16 minutes late and ended before they even heard any new business.

Senate President Kaitlin Ramirez motioned to file articles of impeachment against Attorney General (AG) Matthew Harris after her typical remarks in Monday’s senate meeting.

Senators immediately started asking questions about what exactly they were voting on and why this was happening, distracting from the motion itself.

Ramirez said she made the motion because Harris approached Senate President Pro-tempore Shomari Gloster earlier in the day and suggested the Senate conduct legislative cabinet elections in two weeks.

The Senate Policies & Procedures (P&P) call for senate legislative cabinet elections once the validation of a general election takes place. General elections occur every Fall and Spring.

President Turner looking at Attorney General Harris as Senate President Ramirez read her remarks. Photo by Cody Quattlebaum
President Turner looking at Attorney General Harris as Senate President Ramirez read her remarks. Treasurer Morgan Wolf sitting on Turner’s right.
Photo by Cody Quattlebaum

The UNF SG Constitution, which supersedes the Senate P&P, states there shall only be legislative cabinet elections annually.

Leading up to filing the motion, Ramirez said, “[the] precedence [is] that they occur in Spring. This looks like an attempt to remove us from our positions. Seems awfully vindictive.”

She said no one even filed an interpretation with the AG asking for clarification on legislative cabinet elections.

In arguing her case, Ramirez said this is evident of a larger pattern of abuse of power by the executive branch.

She said, “This looks like harassment.”

As an example, she used the non-compliance hearing that she was found guilty in, stating that her branch worked to correct the issue through new legislation.

However, Student Body President Joseph Turner vetoed that legislation.

Earlier in the night when explaining why he vetoed it, he said he would not sign any legislation into law that makes “this organization less transparent and therefore less accountable to the student body that we serve.”

“I will not accept this disrespect of our branch anymore,” Ramirez said in her statement. “Be powerful senators and do the right thing.”

The vote to file articles of impeachment never took place.

Gloster abruptly adjourned the meeting after Student Body President Joseph Turner said, “This is not Matt not being able to do his job. This is Kaitlin not liking getting called out for not doing hers. This is inappropriate. This is ridiculous. This makes me ashamed to be a member of this organization.”

Gloster said he adjourned due to “the nature of what [was] going on.”

With that statement and the strike of the gavel, the meeting came to an end in the middle of the motion to file articles of impeachment.

11/12/14 at 1:25 p.m. – Updated audio on video clip to to reduce background noise and make speech clearer for the viewer.

Email Cody Quattlebaum at [email protected]