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Monday, June 12, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 150

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SGA president faces investigation

By Jim Parsons
Daily Cougar Staff

The Student Government Association Senate began investigating impeachment charges Wednesday against its president, James Robertson Jr., accused of abuses of power, failure to perform his duties and unlawful conduct.

Robertson, elected less than three months ago in a runoff against Speaker of the Senate Justin Ray, told senators he welcomes the investigation.

The six impeachment charges are detailed in legislation authored by College of Business Sen. Richard Russell and co-sponsored by nine other senators. They allege that Robertson:

"(schemed) to misallocate SGA funds already appropriated by the Student Fee Allocation Committee and approved by the Senate;"

attempted to force SGA executive officers to maintain office hours during the academic break, which is not required by the SGA Constitution;

attempted to dismiss the SGA directors of finance and public relations, a power the Constitution does not grant the president;

failed to call meetings of the Executive Cabinet as required by the Constitution; and

stole business cards belonging to other student government officials.

"I do welcome any sort of investigation that goes on," Robertson told the Senate on Wednesday. "I am confident that I have done right."

The charge of misappropriation of SGA funds centers around a textbook swap program Robertson looked into implementing. He reportedly asked Director of Finance Leigh Street to purchase a $4,000 piece of software for the program but instructed her not to mention the purchase to the Senate.


College of Business Sen. Richard Russell reads a bill of impeachment against Student Government Association President James Robertson Jr., seated, on Wednesday night. An SGA Senate committee will investigate six impeachment charges against Robertson.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

When she refused, Street said Robertson began intimating she was not doing her job and then informed her in an undated, unsigned letter that she was removed from her position.

Russell questioned why Robertson would dismiss Street, who was principally responsible for swearing the new president in earlier this year amid protests.

Robertson also notified Director of Public Relations Kim Webb of her dismissal in an unsigned and undated letter. He did not specify the reason for removing Webb, who served as commissioner of this year's SGA elections, from her position.

Executive Committee members also allege that Robertson did not call regular cabinet meetings although the Constitution specifies they are to be held weekly. In addition, Robertson reportedly took and concealed Street and Webb's business cards without their knowledge, an action the two reported to the UH police.

The charges against Robertson will be investigated by the SGA Executive Cabinet members and the members of its Internal Affairs Committee. If probable cause is determined for at least one of the charges, the investigative committee will report its findings to the Senate, which will then conduct an impeachment trial based on those findings.

At the end of the trial, senators may vote either to dismiss charges or to remove the president from office. In that case, the vice president would be acting president until a campuswide presidential re-election could be called. Either vote requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate to pass.

Should the investigating committee find no probable cause for any of the impeachment charges, all charges will be dropped.

It is not clear how long the impeachment investigation will take, but the Senate will continue its normal business until then. The next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. June 21 in the University Center.
 

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