The Maneater

How MSA Senate toppled their president-elect

Senators began planning Gomez’s removal during a Operations Committee meeting Tuesday night.

Senator Joshua Tennison stands next to the projected version of a piece of legislation that, if passed, would nullify the results of the 2015 MSA presidential election. This legislation was brought to the MSA senate following the release of series of screenshots that brought to light issues charged against the newly elected president and his vice president.

The Missouri Students Association full Senate planned to end with a different president than it began with on Wednesday evening. Instead, Payton Head has remained in office as interim MSA president after Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner resigned.

As of 10 p.m. on Jan. 27, Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner are no longer the MSA president- and vice president-elect.

Natalie Edelstein, former campaign manager and assistant director of the Missouri Students Association Department of Student Communications, came forward Jan. 25 with screenshots she took from the Gomez/Hanner campaign group message. The screenshots showed campaign staff discussing the payment of Pocket Points in exchange for their endorsement, mass text messages Edelstein sent and the Concerned Student 1950 protests.

After reviewing the screenshots, senators began to plan to stop the inauguration of Gomez and Hanner Tuesday night in an extended Operations Committee meeting. After hours of meetings, Gomez resigned Wednesday night during the full Senate meeting.

“At the end of the day, I am a person, and I wish that would’ve been respected more than it was,” he said during his resignation.

After the announcement, Senate swore Hanner in as president. Hanner then appointed Head as his vice president before resigning, moving Head up to be interim president.

Head said he was hesitant to assume the role of interim president.

“I was just getting used to the lifestyle of not being MSA president, because it’s something that’s been my whole life,” he said. “It’s thrown me into the national and international spotlight, invaded a lot of my privacy and it’s where I’ve had some of my lowest lows. At the same time, through this organization, I’ve had some of my highest highs.”

Head said he wanted to stay with the association to make sure the transition ran smoothly.

Head appointed former Budget Chairman Bill Vega, who had to first resign as chairman, as his vice president. Vega said he also took the interim position hesitantly.

“I was going to say no,” he said. “I wanted Payton to appoint someone else, but after tonight, I realized that we need some sort of change in the association. I feel like that’s one step that I can take personally.”

Leading up to Gomez’s resignation, senators struggled to find a way to remove Gomez within the established procedures of the senate bylaws and constitution. The constitution contains strict rules for when elections can be held. Because it cannot be altered without a popular referendum of students, senators did not initially think they could hold a special election.

“If we have a question about (the offices of president and vice president), it goes back to the students, not to the senate,” MSA adviser Farouk Aregbe said. “We are not kingsmakers, we were never set up to be kingsmakers and we will not be kingsmakers.”

Early Wednesday morning, the Operations Committee drafted resolutions that would remove Gomez and Hanner from office through a variety of methods. One of the resolutions would have nullified the election, and another would have struck the Gomez/Hanner slate from the ballot and appointed the Ejaz/Parrie slate in their place. A third would also nullify the election, but included a provision regarding the appointment of the next president and vice president.

During that Operations meeting, senators discussed other ideas ranging from the the consultation of the Student Court to a resolution that would assert that January was November and the election wasn’t over. A great deal of discussion centered around the ethics of appointing a president, especially given several senators’ involvement in the Ejaz/Parrie campaign.

At 5 p.m. later that day, senators held another emergency operations committee meeting to determine what actions to take with the resolutions. At the beginning, senators agreed that they needed to convert the resolutions to acts because resolutions express group opinions, not legislative actions.

Aregbe explained that invalidating election results could be unconstitutional because the election results represented an outcome of a student referendum in the same way that the constitution does. Because of that, he felt it would be inappropriate to override the results with an act, which would not be voted on by the students.

He also expressed concerns with senators’ involvement in the Ejaz/Parrie and Gomez/Hanner campaigns, which he thought could contribute to personal biases.

“It is clear that a lot of people in this room supported one candidate or another, and we have to keep that in mind,” he said. “Three slates ran; for some reason we’re having a conversation about two slates. We should be having a conversation about three.”

Senators discussed the role of the Student Court. Some students, including Campus and Community Relations Chairman Alex Higginbotham, wanted Senate to allow the court to rule on the election.

However, senators who had been in communications with the court said it would not be able to meet to rule on the election until Jan. 29.

A few minutes before 6 p.m., when full Senate was scheduled to begin, the committee came to a vote and decided to submit legislation instead of waiting for Student Court to make a ruling. Committee members passed the piece of legislation that only nullified the election.

During senate, Head didn’t comment directly on the discussion.

“You can all check Twitter for the executive report,” he said. “I think that you all have work tonight. I hope you will act accordingly.”

Aregbe restated his positions from earlier and admonished students who used Concerned Student 1950 as a platform point.

"Don't be about CS1950 today if you weren't about it yesterday,” he said. “Don't use it as a soccer ball."

During the meeting, several students spoke, including students who had protested with Concerned Student 1950. Students spoke on their experiences with Gomez and Hanner as well as their opinions of their character. The speeches sometimes became heated or personal.

“I hope you look back, and you feel real shitty about it," former MSA vice presidential candidate Heather Parrie told him.

When the legislation, Act 55-23, came to the floor, some senators proposed an amendment that would prevent Gomez and Hanner from running in the proposed special election.

At that point, Gomez and Hanner had re-entered the chamber. Hanner told Senate that the amendment would be unnecessary because he would not be running in another election. The amendment failed unanimously.

Vega proposed an amendment that would appoint Head as interim in the 30-day wait for the special election to commence. The amendment passed.

After the passage of that amendment, Academic Affairs Chairwoman Tori Schafer gave a speech in negation to the act, saying that it would be more sound procedurally to inaugurate Gomez and Hanner and then impeach them.

“Don’t let this organization be more corrupt than it already is,” Schafer said.

The senate went into another 10-minute recess. At the end of recess, Senate motioned to return to the announcements portion of the agenda, and then Gomez resigned.

Head and Vega’s interim positions will last until new leaders are elected in the special election. However, per the constitution, the special election must be announced and voted on 30 days in advance. No such vote was taken during the session.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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