The Student Association Student Court dismissed a suit Tuesday that charged SA Executive Vice President Tony Sayegh with allowing “fraudulent voting” at a recent Senate meeting.
The charge, made by graduate Sen. Emily Cummins (CSAS), stemmed from the Feb. 24 meeting, during which Cummins said Sayegh willfully violated SA bylaws by allowing two senators to verbally change proxies from her to Sen. Bob Nelson (SMHS). Proxies act on behalf of senators who cannot attend a meeting.
Sayegh motioned for dismissal before the court heard the case on Monday, on the grounds that Cummins did not exercise alternative solutions before filing the suit.
After hearing both sides’ arguments, the court rejected Sayegh’s motion, but dismissed the case of its own volition.
Chief Justice Tom Boer would not give the reason for the dismissal, but said it would be made public in a written decision within 30 days.
Sayegh said even though his motion for dismissal was rejected, he felt vindicated by the court’s dismissal.
“The bottom line is the court was better equipped to find the legal loopholes in Emily’s case than we were because they know the Constitution better . but I anticipate that our motion (to dismiss) helped them,” Sayegh said. “Justice was served.”
At issue in the case was whether proxies must be written, or whether the EVP has the authority to accept oral proxies before a meeting. The SA bylaws state a proxy must be submitted in writing and given to the EVP.
Cummins contended since the written proxies of Sens. Andrew Pecunia and Anne Parrish were originally given to her, they were invalid when they were verbally transferred to Nelson.
But Sayegh contended the bylaw does not specify the proxies could not be changed, and therefore, he allowed Pecunia and Parrish to change their proxies.
By permitting the proxies to be transferred verbally, Sayegh was interpreting what he believed to be an unclear bylaw, said SA Vice President for Judicial and Legislative Affairs Brian Schoeneman, who represented Sayegh in the case.
“The word `written’ is not ambiguous,” Cummins said.
Sayegh argued since the bylaw was unclear, he interpreted it using the SA charter as a guide. And since “representation is paramount” in the charter, he said he allowed the senators to change their proxies to a senator who they felt would vote in a similar fashion as them.
Sayegh also said the changes were verbal amendments to the written proxies the two senators already had submitted. Therefore, they did not conflict with the bylaw regarding proxies under his interpretation.
“The bylaw was not broken by the procedure taken,” Schoeneman said. “The oral amendment (to the proxies) was an unofficial procedure that was in the spirit of the charter to allow representation that these senators wished.”
Cummins said Nelson “controlled all significant votes” at the meeting with the two transferred proxies, as well as his own vote and two written proxies.
Cummins said she stands by her decision to bring the case to court, but feels the incident has made her lose trust in the EVP.
“I always followed the minimum level of trust rule, but now when someone says someone has proxied, I’ll raise my hand and ask to see the proxy,” Cummins said.
Cummins said she thinks the way senators view the EVP will change as a result of this case.
“I think it’s going to make the EVP more political than it already is . this gives the EVP more power and makes senators less trustful,” Cummins said. “Now we know the EVP has more power than we thought.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments as EVP,” Sayegh said. He noted other senators supported his actions.