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Quorum lost as United slate walked out during ethics committee discussion

On Sunday, Oct. 14, the Board of Administration (BOA) convened for their third meeting of the year to discuss a 10-motion Governance Motions Package, and the ratification of an election committee report.

The meeting was chaired by Anne-Marie Roy, former Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) president.

This was the first BOA meeting since the recusal of office by the three SFUO executives named in recent fraud allegations.

The minutes from September’s BOA meeting were not prepared and therefore, the ratification was tabled to the November meeting.

The meeting began with the chair announcing that Maximilio Michelini, Faculty of Health Sciences representative had resigned.

Updates from the SFUO’s legal counsel, relating to the forensic audit, were discussed in camera.

Governance motions package

Paige Booth, interim president and vice-president external, introduced the 10-motion package by describing the motivation for a rehaul of SFUO governance structure. According to Booth, the federation has been consulting with students on campus in an attempt to restore faith in the union, and meeting with legal counsel on terms for a new agreement with the University of Ottawa.

Loss of quorum

At the six-hour mark of the meeting, Omar Ahmadi, Faculty of Social Sciences, expressed agitation with the length of the meeting while addressing the chair with strong language. A time saver motion mandated to occur at the six-hour mark, which would extend the meeting by a hour, was defeated, leaving half an hour until adjournment.

In the midst of the debate on the Ethics Committee motion in the Governance Package, before any vote had been taken quorum was lost. A large portion of the United slate, excluding Booth and Junior Akat Akat, Faculty of Social Sciences representative, walked out approximately ten minutes before the meetings’ adjournment.

Ethics committee

This motion would see the creation of an ethics committee, if all parties consent, between the SFUO in collaboration with the U of O effective May 1, 2019.

However, no vote occured on the motion or its discussed amendments due to loss of quorum.

Finance committee task force

This motion stipulates that the BOA’s finance committee would develop a task force to overhaul financial operations in counsel with external account experts.

Ben King, Faculty of Engineering representative, proposed an amendment to change the language “external accounting experts” to “external chartered accounting firm”, citing ambiguity.

The amended motion passed unanimously.

Financial controls and fraud prevention training

The motion to mandate that all executive officers will receive Financial Controls and Fraud Prevention Training by a professional auditing firm at the beginning of their term passed unanimously.

Communications director position

The SFUO’s current constitution currently assigns communication duties to the president, following the elimination of the vice-president communications and services position last year. However, shortly after the BOA meeting Arthur Revolus, new SFUO communications director, released a statement on the Accountability Agenda that promises regular progress reports as well as “a series of consultations with students, staff, stakeholders and service partners.”

No directors as employees

This motion would prohibit BOA faculty directors from serving as a staff person of the SFUO, effective May 1, 2019.

Tony Bui, a member of the general public, asked why proxies for BOA members were not included. The chair and Sagal Dahir, Faculty of Arts representative, suggested that interpretation is implied, however, Hussein Hegazy, Faculty of Engineering representative, proposed an amendment to put it into formal writing. Hegazy and Priyanka Goel, Faculty of Sciences representative, said the past two meetings have seen conflicts of interests when proxies used their past employment as motivation for their voting decisions.

The amendment passed with 11 opposed and 13 in favour. The amended motion passed with 13 in favour, 10 opposed, and 1 abstention.

Faculty director slate elimination

This motion would have the elimination of slates for faculty director positions, but not executive positions.

A member of the public questioned whether the word choice of “slate” would formally prohibit the unofficial forming of teams by candidates.

Michel Antoun, Faculty of Science representative, put forth an amendment to change the word “slate” to “candidate”. Thus the amended wording would read as follows:

“Be it resolved that the candidates for the Board of Administration Faculty Director positions may not form, participate, volunteer, and/or affiliate with any other candidate.”

The amendment passed with all in favour.

Proxy for Rudolph Damas, Faculty of Social Sciences representative, asked why executives are excluded from the motion, and proposed an amendment to prohibit executives from forming slates as well.

Those who spoke against the motion said a shared vision is important for the management of organization while those in favour, cited the elimination of slates as a motivator for people to run, the removal of cliques, and that the shared vision is to improve students’ lives.

Ultimately, the amendment was defeated with 14 opposed, nine for, and two abstensions.

The original motion, with Antoun’s amendment, passed with all in favour.

Policy 36 – conflict of interest

This motion was proposed as an addition to the current conflict of interest policy, which addresses the BOA members, to include committee members.

The following motion passed with all in favour:

“Be it resolved that if an Officer of the SFUO holds any position on a committee where they are directly liable of any financial gain or personal benefit from the outcome of the vote, they will be unable to vote due to conflict of interest. Conflict of interest should be disclosed prior to any discussion on a motion and the Officer shall be suspended from the committee until a resolution has concluded.”

Directors of federated bodies

This motion aimed to improve SFUO relations with federated bodies by reserving one faculty seat per faculty on the BOA for an elected representative from the Presidents’ Roundtable (PRT) which would be chosen from a PRT meeting before April 30 of each year.

However, this would mean Droit Civil, Medicine, Common Law and Education faculties would only be represented by a member of the PRT. This was brought up by a member of the general public who said it would eliminate the democratic nature of the positions. However, some BOA members noted that presidents had already been democratically elected by their respective faculties.

Booth proposed an amendment, however, the chair ruled that it is a constitutional committee matter.

At the recommendation of the chair, a new amendment was introduced to delegate the motion as a whole to the constitutional committee, and this passed with all in favour.

Chairperson of the BOA

This motion would prohibit any SFUO executive, staff, or BOA member from chairing board meetings.

Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, proxy for Gabi Ghannoum, Faculty of Social Sciences representative, brought forth an amendment which would introduce an addition to remove the vice-chair title from the list of the president’s duties.

The amendment and altered motion passed with all in favour.

General Assembly motion

This motion would establish the General Assembly (GA) as the highest voting power meaning, the BOA would no longer have the power to overturn a vote at the GA. The following language passed with little debate, no amendments, and one abstention:

“Be it resolved that the Board of Administration directs the SFUO legal counsel to propose amendments to the SFUO By-laws and to produce articles of amendment, if any, to ensure that all SFUO members have voting rights at any meeting of the members and to undertake any action to give effect to this resolution.”

Executive members on elections committee

The motion to prohibit any executive member of sitting on the elections committee was passed with unanimous support.

Elections committee report

Dahir spoke about the committee’s recommendation of Simply Voting as the organization to handle online voting for the by-elections and candidates for the SFUO elections positions of Chief Returning Officer (CRO) and Chief Elections Officer (CEO).

According to Dahir, Simply Voting is used by approximately 50 student unions across Canada, including the University of Toronto. A code will be sent to students’ U of O email from the company, which is then used to vote on any device or at one of 15 stations on campus that will have the platform available.

Dahir then discussed the four candidates for the positions of CRO and CEO, with two applicants for each position. During question period, the question arose about a conflict of interest between those on the elections committee and the candidates. Dahir and Khalid Touijar, Telfer School of Management representative, said they did not know any of the candidates while Antoun said he was unable to answer the question ex camera due to confidentiality. Following this discussion, a motion to go in camera was passed.

Upon returning ex camera, Simply Voting was ratified as were the CRO and CEO positions.

Question period

Tony Bui, a member of the general public, asked what stops the individuals who recused office from returning of their own accord. Booth answered saying the voluntary recusal will last until after the forensic audit at which time they would discuss with the BOA prior to retaking office.

In answering a question posed by King, Wais said the forensic auditors wrapped up field work last Friday and started the draft of the first report on Tuesday Oct. 9. She mentioned that things have been pushed back due to people not complying, however, interviews did occur.

Liam Roche, a first-year engineering student, posed the question asking why the board members who are also SFUO staff members did not abstain on the vote for Rizki Rachiq’s, SFUO president, suspension back in the August BOA seeing as he is theirre boss. Roche specifically named each individual from the United slate excluding Ghannoum and Ifrah Yusef. Faduma Wais, vice-president social and interim vice-president operations, said she wanted to ensure 101 week ran smoothly however, no other named individual gave a response.

Executive and faculty updates

Booth opened executive updates by saying “things have been pretty smooth in the office.” Continuing, she said 200 clubs have been approved and will receive financial information over the next few weeks.

Elections were completed in the Faculties of Science and Health Sciences. The Engineering Students Association held a town hall on Oct. 12 to discuss the ongoing situation with the SFUO. King noted concerns around professional accreditation in the Faculty of Engineering, as the accreditation demands a functioning student body, however, he said that students should not be concerned at this time.

The next BOA meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 12 p.m. Location will be updated once it is provided.