Two Student Association officials have resigned as an internal power struggle continues to shake GW’s student government. While leaders, including SA President Phil Robinson and Senate members, said they are ready to move past the internal squabble and address student issues, evidence continues to arise that implicates senior SA officials in questionable behavior.
Senator Don Jacobsen (G-CCAS) unexpectedly resigned his Senate seat Saturday, calling the SA “the most dysfunctional, impotent, captured and corrupt organization . in Washington.”
Jacobsen, 35, who submitted his resignation in a public e-mail statement, admitted to participating in a recent effort to remove Robinson from office that included dozens of secret meetings and an incident in which a senator claimed to have secretly recorded a conversation with the SA president.
Robinson’s Chief of Staff Damien Gardner also resigned this weekend, citing ROTC commitments and weariness with SA politics, Robinson said.
A Senate investigation into SA funds Robinson spent for a dinner with Presidential Administrative Fellows revealed insignificant evidence to impeach him last week.
In his resignation letter, Jacobsen said the impeachment effort began when several Senate leaders approached him in September with evidence of potential illicit activities and fiscal mismanagement by Robinson administration officials.
Jacobsen said Executive Vice President Eric Daleo, Sen. J.P. Blackford (SEAS-G) and Sen. Dan Moss (SBPM-U) repeatedly discussed removing Robinson from office during the course of the last two months.
Blackford, Daleo and Moss admit discussion of possibly bringing impeachment articles against Robinson but claim Jacobsen orchestrated the plan and single-handedly authored several documents detailing impeachment.
Daleo said that impeachment was only realistically considered if a Robinson expense report for the May dinner showed illicit conduct and the President had knowledge of a September incident in which a Senate staffer’s private e-mails were distributed to campus media organizations.
Daleo said he was “surprised” by Jacobsen’s resignation and the contents of the statement, adding that Jacobsen always had a “grudge” against the three leaders.
On Sept. 22, Jacobsen wrote a nine-page memo detailing the potential impacts of an impeachment on the SA, writing, “Phil’s removal both is necessary for the health of the SA and would be a positive, cathartic event.”
Jacobsen laid out possible scenarios for impeachment in the impact study, including supporters within the Senate, succession and “political ramification of impeachment.”
In a revealing glimpse at the extent of SA backroom dealings, Jacobsen writes that an impeachment effort could be aided by exploiting race and religion of SA officials.
Calling Jacobsen “off his rocker,” Daleo and Moss both denied orchestrating an attempt to remove Robinson. Blackford criticized Jacobsen for resigning his post instead of bringing issues to the Senate floor.
All three leaders said the surprise memo went into detail beyond what they had considered and did not respond to the document.
“I did not want to dignify the memo with a response,” Blackford said.
The possibility of impeachment, made public in last Monday’s Hatchet, was the impetus behind a meeting between Moss, Robinson and Vice President for Judicial and Legislative Affairs Justin Oshana late Monday night in the Marvin Center. Moss and Robinson discussed their exasperated relationship and a recent investigation into the questionable Robinson expense report that spawned the possible impeachment.
At the end of the conversation, Moss said he produced a tape recorder from his pocket, implying to Robinson that he had secretly recorded the conversation.
“It was a scare tactic,” Moss said, noting he had not actually recorded the conversation. “It shows how bad our relationship had become. It was a knee-jerk reaction.”
Moss said the political wrangling in the SA has grown tiring and he is “physically and mentally exhausted.”
Moss was also unsure of his future in student government.
“I am actively considering other options,” Moss said.
Robinson said he felt the senators were “going on a witch hunt.”
“I was disgusted,” Robinson said. “I was disturbed and disgusted by all of this.”
The recent dispute reflects a larger power struggle between the legislative and executive branches of student government since Robinson was elected.
Blackford, Daleo and Moss all supported senior Josh Singer as part of the “Working for Us” slate in his unsuccessful bid for the SA presidency last year, but said they were willing to move on and work with the new administration.
Daleo cited several conflicts with Robinson in which he felt his office was undermined to that of “a glorified secretary.”
“I felt my role was not being respected,” Daleo said. Noting that Robinson failed both to keep him informed about financial decisions and to afford him authority bestowed on preceding EVPs, Daleo said he had grown frustrated with Robinson.
Daleo said he drafted a resignation letter last week but changed his mind following a “gentleman’s agreement” last Tuesday in which Robinson and Senate leadership worked out differences.
Robinson said he decided to come to an agreement and didn’t want to spend the year arguing over internal matters because he wanted to address student issues.