Student Association Executive Vice President Jesse Strauss accused his predecessor, Tony Sayegh, of an inappropriate and possibly illegal use of SA funds after he threw a $7,000 party for SA members.
“The event essentially was a reception for the Senate and a lot of members of the SA that were not recognized at the (official SA) transition dinner,” Sayegh said.
Sayegh said the second transition party, held at Mount Vernon College in early May, was a legitimate expenditure. He admits he did not receive written approval to spend the funds but said he received verbal confirmation from former SA Vice President for Financial Affairs Steven Mandelbaum that the funds were in the SA Senate’s account. He said he was told the expenditures would be signed off by Mandelbaum as a legitimate expense.
“The money was stolen from the Student Association,” Strauss said. “Even if it was done legally, it amounts to a very poor judgment call. He spent $200 a person.”
Sayegh said many people felt excluded at the official SA transition dinner May 1, which largely was organized by outgoing SA President Kuyomars “Q” Golparvar. Sayegh said he was confident the SA had the money to hold an additional reception.
“We found it both feasible and appropriate,” Sayegh said. The Senate has had dinners in the past, but this year it moved the event to MVC, he said.
“I wanted to showcase a little of Mount Vernon,” Sayegh said. “My view was to make MVC visible to these people.”
Strauss said he did not believe the reception was an appropriate use of funds, and that the money could have been better spent in student group allocations.
Strauss claims Sayegh spent $2,000 on catering for about 25 people who attended the second party and spent additional funds at the GW Bookstore to purchase gifts.
“When I throw an event, I like quality to be a consistent theme,” Sayegh said.
Strauss said the expense was illegal because Expenditure Approval Forms were not signed before the event. Strauss admits it is a common practice for funds to be allocated without completed forms, but never for such a large expenditure.
“He exploited a system based on honesty,” Strauss said.
Sayegh defended his use of funds without proper signatures.
“Many times, for the sake of expediency, it is not ideal to get it done that way,” he said. “It went through every possible layer of approval within the SA.”
In addition, Strauss said it will be almost impossible for the expense to be approved now, because Mandelbaum is no longer in control of SA finances. SA President Carrie Potter is acting as chief financial officer, and Strauss said he believes she will not sign the EAF.
“It will become an unapproved expenditure,” Strauss said.
J.P. Blackford, chair of the SA Senate’s Finance Committee, said the money will be taken out of the account even without the signatures.
“(GW’s) catering (department) is not going to take a loss for this,” he said.
Blackford, who attended the dinner, said he supported the idea of a separate Senate transition dinner, but he felt the event may have been a little extravagant.
“It probably could have been done more low-key,” he said. “But I don’t want to condemn the whole event.”
Strauss said he also was concerned about whether the SA Senate had the funds in its account to cover the expenses.
In an SA Senate meeting last fall, Sayegh earmarked a large portion of the Senate’s budget to the Program Board for use in Homecoming. At the time, he said he was using the funds to pay the bill the SA owed.
Last week, however, Sayegh said the money had been a loan, and the SA repaid the Senate the money that had been allocated to PB. Those funds gave him extra money to put on the party, Sayegh said.
Blackford confirmed the money was reimbursed.