West Campus President Voted Out

Collin Dever

At the last general assembly meeting of the West campus Student Government Association two items were added to the New Business section of the agenda. The first issue 7.3, the acceptance of the Jurisprudence Committee and 7.4, a petition hearing.

The petition was for a removal of office. When the petition was finally read, it was revealed that the petition was for the removal of Juliana Montoya, the President of the Student Government Association.

Montoya’s eyes were unflinching, staring at nothing, during Wednesday’s meeting as the grievances against the president were read. The petition included the testimony of five members of the student government and was signed by seven out of nine Executive Board members.

The charges against the president included not logging office hours, being late to events, being absent from meetings, and failing to meet deadlines. The serious allegations presented were using her authority as president to have members of the SGA carry out personal tasks for Montoya, and discussing a confidential meeting with a member of the student body.

The vote was ten for her removal, one against, and one abstained. With that, the petition was approved. Montoya stood to address her administration, “I feel like I just got backstabbed by my own team,” said Montoya. Her final words: “This is life and I take it.”

According to the West Campus SGA constitution, once a petition has been voted on, the SGA member has five business days to submit a letter of appeal if they feel they have been wrongfully accused. Montoya submitted an appeal letter to the jurisprudence council on Friday, Oct. 22.

The opening line of her letter read: “I, Maria Juliana Montoya, current President of the Student Government Association West campus in the process of possible removal, request an appeal to the Jurisprudence Committee… ”

“Based on our constitution the President was not performing duties and abusing her power,” said Tiffany Janiczek Press Secretary  of SGA. As an Executive Board member, her signature was one of seven on the petition.

Janiczek felt that based on the number of offenses, their actions were in no way an overreaction. “If it was one issue, then I say yes, let’s give her probation, but it was multiple issues with multiple people.”

Montoya was absent from the Eboard meeting the Monday before the General meeting. Stating that she had forgotten essential materials for a presentation that day, and would miss the meeting due to having to turn around.

Running behind Montoya, her professor called to inform them that she would be late for the class. The professor told her that in order to present that day, someone would have to sign her up in class.

Montoya then called members of the SGA in hope of finding someone to sign her up. One member she called was Tyler-Marie Walker Executive Secretary. Montoya tried to reach Walker on both her personal cell phone and her desk phone in the SGA office.

The petitioners argue that due to the nature of the working relationship that her request was not personal. It represented a request from an authoritative position to execute a task outside of the realm of their position.

“All my friends are in SGA,” said Montoya. Due to the time commitment level of some student organization, very little time is left for anything else.

Montoya told Walker she was “the only one I know on campus right now.”

The other serious allegation was the discussion of confidential material. The material in question, now made public was information regarding the removal of the former Vice President Patrick O’Connor.

The vice president was asked for his resignation due Oct. 15. The conversation in question occurred on Oct. 14 before the due date of the resignation. The testimony of Hang Le Nguyen states that “during the voting out of Mr. Patrick O’Connor, she wanted to offer him one week probation and nobody agreed to it.”

Montoya does not deny the discussion of O’Connor’s removal, or that the conversation occurred, “[the student] already knew, so there was nothing confidential about it,” said Montoya. “And it didn’t come from me.”

According to Florida freedom of information legislation however, all Student Government Association Meetings are matter of public record. The issue of confidentially is inconsequential because the SGA is not premitted to have confidential meetings.

Montoya feels the petition was a detrimental blow to the SGA. It jeopardized the future of the Student Government Association. Recounting the day of the general assembly meeting “in that moment it was about the Student Government’s future,” said Montoya. “Everything I’m doing this year is for the students.”

The president also questioned the legitimacy of the accusation; asking the question, “Have my officers read the constitution?”

The constitution was last amended in 2005 under the Student Government President Rudy Darden. Darden now teaching at Valencia in the communications department and assisting students in the writing center, he spent much of his presidential term working on revisions to the constitution.

Darden stated that within the petition “is more than enough to have an SGA president removed from office.” Also, affirming that the procedures of the removal process were in accordance with the constitution.

Last year, the SGA President Robert Stio spent time working on re-tailoring the constitution. Montoya worked within Stio’s administration as his Executive Secretary.

“It sounds like Juliana was overriding her presidency, for her to be a student, and merely called a friend,” said Stio. He emphasized that with all organizations, “your a student first.”

Stio raised an issue with the constitutionality of the petition process. “It’s a two step process, that’s the part that is outlined.” The petition was assembled and ruled valid by the Eboard and delivered at the next general meeting. “Decisions aren’t made until the next meeting.”

Before the petition was read, item 7.3, the acceptance of the Jurisprudence Committee, was discussed. The SGA Parliamentarian Jonathan Lamones, presented a list of members of the newly formed Jurisprudence Committee.

After some discussion, Montoya cited the constitution Art. five Sec. IV item D number four sub d stating that the selection of the jurisprudence committee shall be made by presidential appointment.

Montoya accepted the list of applicants to be reviewed and then appointed by her office. When the meeting ended after the petition was heard there was no committee to appeal to, no one was approved for the positions.

Since then, a Jurisprudence committee has been assembled and approved by the Student Development Coordinator, Victor Collazo. The committee has not set a meeting time to hear Montoya’s case for her defense.

It is the job of the Student Government Advisor to present the petition to the Jurisprudence committee and the accused presents their argument to refute the petition and can bring forth witnesses to speak on her behalf. The Jurisprudence Committee, headed by the parliamentarian, can request any information from the advisor for their ruling.

It is the job of the jurisprudence committee to rule on whether the charges are valid grounds for removal. Once thy have convened a hearing, they have two business days to return with a ruling. In the event of a tie – the parliamentarian holds the deciding vote.