Senate removes Meisner as president

The Student Association Senate removed President Phil Meisner from his office early Wednesday morning, making Executive Vice President Caity Leu president.

The Senate voted 21 to 2 with one abstention to remove Meisner. The decision came at about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday after nearly 11 hours of testimony from witnesses, cross-examinations and deliberation by members of the Senate.

The only article that passed was article eight, citing gross negligence on the part of Meisner. Eight articles of impeachment were introduced, but two financial-related articles were consolidated into the first article, detailing his alleged failure to follow provisions of SA bylaws.

Leu is now acting president of the SA and will be formally sworn in this weekend.

I’m just hoping to move forward from this and to really try to make a difference, Leu said.

According to an e-mail issued late Wednesday evening, Meisner said he is deeply saddened.

The Senate, in their infinite wisdom overlooked the voice of the students and acted selfishly and irresponsibly, according to Meisner’s e-mail. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Meisner commented about student government at GW.

Students view the Student Association and student life on this campus as a joke, he said. And they have good reason.

In future SA business, Leu said she plans to appoint a new EVP by Nov. 30.

I won’t be appointing anyone from the Senate for EVP, and, in addition to that, the person I decide to appoint will have to swear publicly to me and to the Senate that they will not be running for anything next year in the SA, Leu added.

Evidence in the trial included questions about financial impropriety and Meisner’s delegation of power during his recent absence because of illness.

A point of contention arose regarding Meisner’s veto of the initial allocation bill last May. The Senate overrode Meisner’s veto, but Meisner had an option to hold the bill until the beginning of the school year, which according to some witnesses would have not allowed student groups to receive funding for summer expenditures.

It was an extremely absurd situation, said undergraduate Sen. David Burt (at large), who is chair of the Finance Committee and was a witness Tuesday. I think the president was subverting the legislative process by either not vetoing or approving the bill.

Another financial-related issue was the prosecution’s claim that Meisner misstated his summer expenditures by more than $5,000. Meisner said certain costs were not clear at the time of his report, and, therefore, his numbers were off.

Meisner’s failure to show up at this year’s Commencement ceremony was discussed during the trial. Meisner said he had no excuse for his absence.

Attention focused on Meisner’s call last week for the dissolution of the SA.

I felt for a long time that the primary purpose of the SA is not to be a debating club, Meisner said. We’ve really showed the effort and tried to be more deliberative.

I don’t have the authority to dissolve the SA, he added.

Meisner was questioned about last week’s press release stating his plans to dissolve the SA.

The spirit of what that was trying to say is that a lot of change can be made while keeping up the normative functions of the SA, Meisner said.

The defense questioned Meisner as to whether he properly delegated powers during his recent absence from GW because of an illness this fall.

Primarily, V.P. (for Judicial and Legislative Affairs) Jeremy Dutra took over a number of things and the remainder of the cabinet fulfilled the duties, Meisner said. He denied unconstitutionally delegating power when questioned by his defense counsel.

Emily Cummins, vice president for Graduate Policy, said Meisner’s chief operating officer, Steven Mandelbaum, asserted unconstitutional control over SA affairs.

Cat Sadler, Meisner’s chief of staff and student co-chair for the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, said Meisner made hasty decisions in regard to the dissolution. She cited Meisner’s enormous stress as a reason for his haste.

Meisner’s defense counsel, Brandon Pace, said in his closing arguments that Meisner realizes his mistakes. Meisner cited personal vendettas by other Senate members as a motivation for his impeachment.

They distorted the truth and tried to bring me and my cabinet down, individuals who have been working hard since last May, Meisner wrote in the e-mail.

The Senate took this matter extremely seriously, graduate Sen. Jon Rodeback (CSAS) said.

As for the future of the SA, senators said they hope things will return to normal.

During the next few days, I will be assisting President Leu in whatever ways I can to put the pieces back together, Rodeback said. I am confident that my fellow senators will be doing the same.

The SA is going to be strong, said undergraduate Sen. Ben Getto (SBPM).

-Steven Postal contributed to this report.

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