MSA committee seeks presidential ouster
Three resolutions seek outcomes from nullifying election to appointing runners-up.
Jan. 27, 2016
An MSA committee drafted three resolutions at around 1 a.m. Wednesday that would block President-elect Haden Gomez and Vice President-elect Chris Hanner from taking office.
The pieces of legislation from the Missouri Students Association Operations Committee came after screenshots surfaced indicating Gomez and Hanner knew about campaign misconduct.
The first resolution would nullify the entry of the Gomez/Hanner slate in the presidential election and appoint runners-up Syed Ejaz and Heather Parrie in their place. The second would nullify the election as a whole. The third would also nullify the election, but allow for 72 hours for Senate to determine their next steps.
Senate will discuss the resolutions in the next full Senate at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 in Leadership Auditorium.
The decision came after former Gomez/Hanner campaign manager Natalie Edelstein gave screenshots of conversations within the Gomez/Hanner campaign staff’s group message on the GroupMe application. Gomez, Hanner and co-campaign manager Josh Boehm were members of the GroupMe. The screenshots showed conversations between the campaign staff regarding mass texts Edelstein planned to send and the campaign’s use of Pocket Points. Edelstein gave the screenshots to Senate Speaker Kevin Carr, who shared them with The Maneater.
If the screenshots had come to light during the election, the mass texts and a payment to Pocket Points would have constituted major infractions and removed Gomez and Hanner from the election, per the Board of Elections Commissioners handbook.
“If they contact Jeremy and find out we paid then we’re fucked is all I’m saying,” Edelstein wrote in the GroupMe.
The extended debate in committee centered around how to remove Gomez and Hanner from office. Senators disagreed on whether they could appoint the second place Ejaz/Parrie slate in their place or if current MSA President Payton Head and Vice President Brenda Smith-Lezama would remain in office. Gomez and Hanner are scheduled to be inaugurated Jan. 30.
Senate Speaker Kevin Carr said in an interview following the committee meeting that it would not be feasible to have a run-off election if Gomez and Hanner were removed because the election dates are stipulated in the MSA constitution.
“If we pass a resolution tonight and wanted to have another election, we would have to actually change the constitution to move the general election, which is way too burdensome,” he said.
Carr said Gomez and Hanner absolutely needed to be removed from office.
“With the evidence that Natalie Edelstein has come forward with, we cannot ignore this,” he said. “If we ignore it, we are letting a person of poor moral character lead us.”
The decision to submit legislation comes in the wake of a controversial election season. The resignations of UM System President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin prompted the BEC to extend the election period by one week to a Nov. 18 end date.
On Nov. 18, MSA voted to delay the election announcement by 24 hours to give the BEC “an ample amount of time to make sure that they consider” to rule on infractions filed against the Ejaz/Parrie and Gomez/Hanner slates.
Alex Higginbotham, chairman of the Campus and Community Relations Committee, also presented a petition to impeach BEC Chairwoman Emma Henderson for her job performance during the election.
Higginbotham and other senators were dissatisfied with Henderson for several reasons, including her delay in writing the BEC Handbook and her handling of major infractions by the aforementioned slates. Henderson charged both of the slates a fine of $300 instead of requiring they cease campaigning for the remainder of the election, which was the punishment stipulated in the handbook.
On Dec. 2, the Operations Committee voted not to pursue impeachment proceedings against Henderson.
At the time, discussion centered on whether the Gomez/Hanner slate had committed an infraction significant enough to result in their dismissal from the race. On Nov. 18, they were charged with one major violation for sending out a mass notification over the application Pocket Points, which violated the handbook’s mass email policy. Henderson said there was no way to know how much the notification influenced student votes.
Since their election, many students have come forward with concerns about Gomez’s character and ability to lead. Jordan McFarland, third-place presidential candidate, said he had “never met somebody with so little character.”
“What’s happened to Natalie and Riley is indicative of really what Haden Gomez is — not who he is,” McFarland said. “What he is, is a ruthless cut-throat, arrogant, ambitious man who will sacrifice anything for what he sees fit. And what he sees fit is not what the student body deserves.”
Riley de Leon, who was fired from Gomez’s executive cabinet, also spoke out against the president-elect.
“In the past several month I have spent hours aimlessly supporting, and coercing my friends to support, a president-elect who allows his personal agenda to cloud his administrative ‘decisions,’” de Leon said in a Facebook post Dec. 11.
Both Gomez and Hanner declined to comment on the GroupMe message. However, early Wednesday morning, Gomez released a statement.
“During the election cycle, Chris and I can say with the utmost certainty we did everything we knew by the bylaws, including our teaming up with pocket points (sic),” he said in the statement. “The Board of Elections still issued us a major infraction for our actions and we dealt with that accordingly. Our campaign team faced challenges not ever seen by MSA and we handled them in the way we thought to be most appropriate and most beneficial to the success of our mission.”
Edited by Waverly Colville | firstname.lastname@example.org