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Removed SG senator contests decision

The senator representing the Interfraternity Council lost his seat late last semester after missing three required Student Government meetings.

John Constantinide, the speaker of the SG Senate, informed sophomore Adam Guercio of his removal on Nov. 2 via email.

Guercio petitioned the SG Supreme Court at a Jan. 31 trial, claiming that one special meeting he missed, an SG retreat on Oct. 1, could not be classified as mandatory under the constitution.

Kelly Calisto, the Supreme Court chief justice, said this was the only issue the court ruled on.

Constantinide cited several sections of the Constitution at the trial:

-Section 5, Meetings: The Speaker, or in the speaker’s absence, the President at the Speaker Pro Tempore’s consent, shall, on the petition of five (5) Senators, call a special meeting.

-Section 6, Senate procedures, 6-1: A majority of the occupied Senate seats shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may meet on the normal meeting day and time and may compel the attendance of absent members in such a manner and under such penalties as the Senate shall provide, including expulsion.

He also cited section 1 of the SG statutes, which says: “An absence by a Senator shall be defined as the failure to attend a meeting, arriving to a meeting after Open Forum, or leaving a meeting before Chair of said meeting allows members to depart.”

The opinion was issued on Feb. 12 and written by Associate Justice Chris Fisher, who is also a Miami Hurricane columnist.

The other two unexcused absences were a Senate committee meeting on Oct. 18 and a Nov. 1 Senate meeting.

Attendance for each senator is posted on Constantinide’s door in the SG office, UC 214. Guercio said he never checked the door because he did not believe he was absent for the Oct. 1 and Oct. 18 meetings.

He said he arrived five minutes late to the Academic Affairs Committee meeting on Oct. 18, but not did believe he was absent. The head of the committee, Michele James, was absent and Brandon Gross, the speaker pro tempore, was the acting chair for that meeting.

Gross passed around a sign-in sheet and it was signed by 11 committee members. Constantinide said that written attendance is the standard for committees, but chairs may take attendance visually as long as they make their own written documentation.

Guercio did not sign in because he believed Gross saw him and would take attendance the way James did, visually. James confirmed via email that she writes down everyone’s name, types them up with the minutes and sends it to the speaker pro tempore, Gross.

MEETING INVESTIGATION

One month and a half after the meeting, an investigation led by Constantinide looked into whether or not Guercio attended that meeting.

During the investigation, Russ Haws, the freshman senator, told Constantinide on Nov. 16 that that he was 99 percent sure that he was at the meeting, and if he was, he was sitting next to Guercio. A copy of the sign-in sheet obtained by The Miami Hurricane verifies that Haws was in attendance.

Haws confirmed this and, Constantinide said, was the only one to remotely recollect seeing Guercio, which the former IFC senator attributes to expanse of time between the 15-minute meeting and the investigation.

Constantinide recalled speaking to approximately eight committee members as part of the investigation. He said that he suspended the investigation after learning that Guercio spoke to one of the committee members about the investigation.

Although Constantinide said that senator can not be named due to a Senate confidentially policy, Guercio said that he spoke to Haws about the investigation. Haws confirmed this, adding that he had heard about it from other members of senate.

Guercio said he told Haws of the investigation while they were walking back from the dining hall. The two live next door to each other.

“I wasn’t trying to influence it in my favor,” Guercio said, adding that he told Haws to answer as a senator, not as a friend or a fraternity brother. Both are members of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “Answer ethically and what you believe is correct.”

Haws said he answered truthfully to Constantinide’s question, with Cook there merely as a witness taking notes.

In email sent Nov. 14, before the investigation began, to Guercio, Gross and SG advisers Richard Walker and Heather Lancin, Constantinide outlined how the investigation would be conducted.

Part of the message reads, “I ask that no one in SG tamper with this process, and I expect that everyone in SG honors that. Any SG member reported to have tampered with or be involved with tampering this process will be investigated by me and possibly brought to the Supreme Court…”

One point of contention deals with the definition of tampering. Guercio said that he does not believe tampering means merely speaking to someone. More so, he said he believes he was potentially preventing tampering by telling Haws to answer truthfully.

“In no way, shape or form it was communicated to me that I couldn’t talk about this,” Guercio said.

Constantinide disagreed and said that everyone else copied on the email agreed as to what tampering means.

“He should have just played it safe and not talked at all if it was such a sensitive [issue],” Constantinide said.

Constantinide sent another email to Guercio, Gross, Calisto, Walker and Lancin two days later, the same day he spoke with Haws.

In a copy of the message obtained by The Hurricane, it says the investigation found there was not enough evidence to confirm Guercio was present. Guercio points out that the email includes no mention of the investigation being suspended, something he did learn until Constantinide released that information to The Hurricane. Futhermore, after this revelation, Guercio believes the “after completing the investigation” part in the Nov. 16 email is lie. He said he did not question the results.

OTHER ABSENCES, ISSUES

With respect to the retreat, Guercio said the he had told his then-girlfriend, SG president Annette Ponnock, that he would be unable to attend since he went home to Naples for his birthday. He acknowledged he did not follow protocol, noting that the proper action is to fill out an excused absence form.

Guercio admitted missing the Senate meeting on Nov. 1 because he was attending his fraternity’s organizational cheer.

It was shortly after then that Constantinide sent the email notifying Guercio of his removal, without any previous warnings-as required in the SG Constitution.

Calisto said that, although the opinion issued by the court said he acted unconstitutionally by not sending out a warning after two absences, Constantinide would face not any repercussions.

Guercio said he feels that he was not notified after the second absence out of carelessness or negligence, not malice.

Constantinide said the warning was not sent out due to a delay in the posting of absences on his door and that he did not know of the Oct. 18 committee meeting absence until 13 days later. He attributed such a delay to Gross not updating the attendance sheet on his door. Gross said there is usually a delay in receiving and posting committee attendance, but could not remember the exact delay in this instance.

Greg Linch may be contacted at g.linch@umiami.edu.

March 6, 2007

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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