The student body senate decided, 35-5 with two abstentions, to remove a senator on a misfeasance charge March 7, after a removal hearing that lasted nearly 7 hours.
Details emerged in the impeachment case against Sen. Patrick Cherubin, who was accused by Sen. Rachel Friant, Conference Registration and Travel committee chair, of using his power with “malice and excess.” Friant said there’s an ongoing case with the Office of Student Conduct regarding the harassment and malfeasance charges she brought against him in the impeachment filing, but were excluded from the removal proceedings.
The accusations are stemming from Cherubin’s communications with CRT members and his investigation of what he said were “irregularities” in the funding of two registered student organizations. Something Friant said he was not told to do, although it’s not against the rules, she said his manner was malicious.
“I think it becomes misfeasance when you conduct these investigations with malice and excess,” Friant said. “I think malice can be described as anytime you do so in a targeted fashion … you have made comments in CRT that you believe engineering RSO’s should be held to a higher level of scrutiny because of their frequent requests [for funds] and I think that’s malicious.”
Cherubin said that it was his duty to do these investigations and that not doing them would be considered nonfeasance, an impeachable offense. Cherubin said his comment about engineering RSO’s was his opinion and that he doesn’t believe his actions can be considered abuse of power.
“I don’t really have a lot of power that I can use in a misfeasance way, because I’m just a senator I’m not a speaker or the pro temp,” Cherubin said. “It’s very hard for me to have power like that to abuse or to use in excess.”
Friant said that what makes Cherubin’s contacts with RSO’s become misfeasance is the excess of his contact and not the contact itself.
“In terms of excessive, I believe that the rate at which you contacted [RSO’s], specifically Phillip on Thanksgiving day when he was out of the country, threatening to continue your investigation without him, I think those are excessive,” Friant said.
Cherubin said his communications were “simple little inquiries.”
Several witnesses were called during the hearing. One of the witnesses for Cherubin was his mentor, professor Ken Teter.
Teter said he was contacted by Kerry Welch, associate vice president for Student Engagement & Leadership Development, who told him that the Student Government Association was not following proper procedures in the impeachment of Cherubin and that it was within Cherubin’s rights to investigate financial irregularities coming from the SGA.
One of the RSO’s which Cherubin was investigating their funding and which was discussed the most during the hearing was the Mock Trial Team. The president of the organization, Katherine Castaner, said she believed Cherubin’s actions to be malicious because he didn’t notify her before the investigation and refused to tell her what the investigation was about when she asked.
Some senators were called to testify during the hearing and discussed Cherubin’s behavior with other SGA members.
Sen. Gabrielle Orphali discusses how Cherubin treated other members of the CRT committee, and said she believed that treating someone with disrespect is an abuse of power.
“He made it aware to us that based on our age and lack of experience that we were a hindrance to him protecting his constituents,” Orphali said. “He also told us that we are like children and we have been handed the keys to the chocolate factory … so it’s created a very hostile environment that I think impeded the progress we made as a committee.”
Sen. Gabriel Soto said that when Cherubin first joined the SGA he was very skeptical, but has “improved a lot this semester.”
“He has been a vocal part of CRT, but has not been rude and I do not believe him to be malicious either,” Soto said. “I feel like we have this atmosphere in SGA where word spreads around and when one person talks about another the whole group goes against one individual.”