SAD DAY FOR AUSU COUNCIL – One member resigns amidst allegations; another is removed under strange circumstances

SAD DAY FOR AUSU COUNCIL – One member resigns amidst allegations; another is removed under strange circumstances

VP Finance resigns

Sunday, December 14th was one of the hardest days yet for AUSU council and staff, and when it was all over, AUSU’s ranks had decreased by two.

The main item on the agenda was the motion of removal against council VP Finance and Administration, Sandra Moore. This motion had been announced at the previous meeting, but not presented, and was still a pending document. Also introduced at the previous meeting was a motion of reprimand against Moore, which was presented, discussed, and then tabled until December 14th at Moore’s request. President Jabbour was also brought up for reprimand in the November meeting, but waived the two week preparation time. The reprimand motion was passed by a majority of council.

The motion of reprimand motion against VP Moore was in relation to expenditures for AUSU clubs, which Moore had approved. Since Moore was the head of the club’s committee, the AUSU VP Finance, and also the head of one of the two clubs in question, there had been some argument as to in which capacity she had approved the expenditures. Argument was also given that Moore made the purchases without notifying anyone on council, and that money was never allocated for the purchasing of club related gifts.

The November discussion wound down into a she-said, they-said battle, in which Moore insisted that she was not aware she would need approval to allocate clubs funding which was already set off in the budget, while council insisted that she did not have the right to spend budgeted amounts without notifying council and seeking approval, and that the intent was never that the budgeted money would be used for gifts. Moore apologized for the error, and said that she would never have done this had she known it was improper, and maintained that she believed that the gift purchases fell under the AUSU volunteer appreciation policy. She then asked for two weeks to prepare a defence, which is her right under AUSU policy. Her request was granted, and her defence was scheduled for the next AUSU meeting – December 14th.

During this time Moore also prepared a defence for the motion of removal which was announced by the AUSU President at the November meeting. This motion had not yet been discussed, nor had it been officially presented to council. Only a notice of motion had been presented at this point.

Council members were shocked when Moore posted the motion and her defence notice on the public AUSU forums three days prior to the December meeting. The document in question, having never been presented, had not become a part of council records, and also contained information pertaining to employees and a student which was confidential. Both the employees and student were mentioned by name, and details of employment agreements were discussed.

Council members also noted at the meeting that motions of removal such as this probably should not be public documents until they’ve been resolved one way or the other.

The Sunday meeting was scheduled for 1:00. Exactly five minutes prior to the meeting, Moore forwarded an e-mail to council indicating that she was resigning from all of her positions with AUSU, effective immediately.

Council then had three items pertaining to Moore on the meeting agenda: the motion of reprimand, tabled at the last meeting; the motion of removal; and Moore’s resignation. The motion of reprimand was presented first — after a brief discussion about whether a reprimand could be issued against someone who had resigned — and passed by unanimous vote with very little discussion since no defence had been presented, and the item had been discussed at length at the last meeting. The result of such a motion is simply a public recognition of wrongdoing, which is on the official council record.

Next on the agenda was the motion of removal. In light of Moore’s resignation, President Jabbour withdrew the motion. It was also noted at this point that because the motion had never been presented or even discussed at council meeting, it was not part of the AUSU document record, nor had it ever been. It also was felt to contain confidential information which could be damaging to Moore, and which violated the privacy of some parties included in the document. Therefore, council determined that the item should be removed from the AUSU forums, with a note of explanation posted in its place. VP Shirley Barg offered to write the notice immediately after the council meeting.

Finally, Moore’s resignation was considered, and accepted by all of council. Many Council members expressed regret over how difficult the situation and become, and noted that Ms. Moore had many strong qualities which were of benefit to council. No further action is planned regarding the various complaints against councillor Moore, who has also resigned from her committee positions (although she does not have to be on council to sit on or chair a committee) and as a columnist for The Voice.

Councillor Karl Low, who has chaired the AUSU legislative committee for nearly two years, was asked to fill the role of VP finance.

I understand that Sandra would like to move on and explore some new opportunities, and that she is almost finished her studies. Nevertheless, many Voice readers will surely miss the popular Dear Sandra column, which has been an important part of the Voice column line up for more than a year and a favourite of many readers. I wish her the best of luck in her future projects.

Councillor Palamarchuk vanishes, and then reappears

In the most bizarre event that has taken place since I came into contact with council, long time council member Nicholas Palamarchuk was also removed from council at the meeting. Nick and I ran together in the election of 2002, and served together as fellow councillors until I left council in January of 2003.

No, Nicholas was not removed for any wrong doing. In fact, council regretted having to make the move and took every step possible to avoid it.

You see, Nicholas, who has been an active and jovial member of council since March of 2002, disappeared – almost literally. It was the end of October when Nick informed council that he had other commitments and would not be able to attend an upcoming committee meeting. His absence was excused, and everyone assumed he would return soon. But, Nick never came back. Council members emailed him over and over with no reply.

I emailed Nicholas more than once, to find out where he was. I had pictures from his weight loss article to return to him, and wanted to find out if he was home. There was no reply. People phoned Nick at home over and over, but he never answered. The November council meeting passed, and Nick did not show, nor did he indicate he would be absent, though he had been emailed the meeting details. Council members and staff asked about him all the time. We all wondered, where had he gone, and why? Council was required to note that he had missed one council meeting without an excuse. Under policy, that can only happen twice in a row.

I emailed Nick again, and so did others. I even told him we were getting worried about him, and asked that he please respond to let me know if he was ok. Others tell me that they did the same. I also emailed to apologize to him, because the last email we had exchanged contained a query from me that I was afraid he might have taken negatively. I was grasping at straws a little, but I wanted to be sure he had not been offended. It was as good a guess as any.

After a few weeks, people began to worry that Nick might be very sick. He did, after all, have a serious surgery for weight loss this year, as has been well documented in The Voice. Everyone was really concerned, and imagined the worst. Some thought maybe he had an accident, and no one knew who to call. I had spoken to Nick on the phone for the second instalment of the article, shortly before his disappearance, and I was very concerned. He had been in terrific spirits last we talked. I was informed a couple of weeks ago that inquiries had been made, Nick had been determined to be at home and ok, but no one had spoken with him.

For those who wonder why people would be so worried about a co-worker, let me explain. The council of 2002-2004 has been touched by more than its share of tragedy. Among other stressors, four of us [I say ‘us’ because I was on council when these events occurred] lost a parent to cancer in the space of a year. Everyone kept on working, we turned to each other for support, and people bonded in powerful ways.

None of AUSU council or staff knew what to say or think about Nick, but it became assumed that he did not want to be on council. At that time, AUSU decided that Nick’s honorarium should be suspended until he could be contacted, and it was noted at the November meeting that a letter would be mailed.

Council also wrote a hard-copy letter to Nick, reminding him that if he did not contact council or show up for the next meeting, council would have to remove him from council per the policy regarding absence from council duty. There was no reply, and Nick did not attend the meeting. Through this time, Nicholas remained on the AUSU email alias, and received all AUSU email. He was sometimes referred to and even directly addressed in many of these mails (I frequently commented that I’d like Nick’s input on items).

Everyone was bewildered, and concerned, but since there was little choice, Nicholas was removed from council at the Sunday meeting, with regret and confusion noted by all present.

Now for the really bizarre part: the very next day, in the AUSU forums, in the thread regarding the resignation of S. Moore, Nick re-appeared like a ghost from the fog. His cryptic messages do not make any sense to me, and based on the replies that have been posted, they make no sense to others either. He seems to be speaking in defence of S. Moore, and yet even she seems bewildered by his comments. I won’t repeat them here – you all know where to find the forums, and I’m sure this strange story will continue.

Nick also suggests he’s glad to have finally been removed from council, but does not explain why he didn’t simply resign, or state his intent to leave.

His comments suggest that he feels there have been cover-ups in council. However, these would have occurred while Nick himself was on council. I can’t speak for council, nor am I privy to all of councils internal communications, but I have attended every council meeting since I left council, and all meetings while I was on council with Nick. Not once did Nick bring forward any allegations, though he was free to.

In contrast to his comments about cover ups, a motion of reprimand was brought against the council president – Debbie Jabbour – last month, because she had requested an expense payment before the proper approval procedure had been completed, and this motion was passed and the reprimand was placed on her record. S. Moore was also reprimanded publicly this week. Clearly these issues were not covered up, and council has not been afraid to take members to task for wrongdoing.

At the very least, it’s nice to know that Nick is still alive. I’m not sure what happened to make you so upset, Nick, but know this: no one wanted to see you leave, and we all recall that you made the AUSU council meetings so much lighter and more fun. Take care Nick.

Other items

Other items discussed at the council meeting included a lengthy and informative presentation of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) – an organization which AUSU has considered joining.

Council approved a plan to create a new web page within the secure area of the AUSU web site in order to post the minutes from all AUSU council meetings, and to archive past minutes.

Council member Stacey Steele brought forward a proposal to form an AUSU judicial committee, and council gave Ms. Steele and VP Shirley Barg the task of investigating how other students’ unions have formed similar committees.

Finally, Ms. Steele presented a list of the 10 most important projects for AUSU to consider over the coming year, as determined by the AUSU strategic planning committee. Oddly, this list contained eleven current projects 🙂 , which were:

1. Student Mentor Program up and running
2. 25 Coffee Groups
3. Grad Student Association
4. Automatic Student updating
5. Cost Shared Publication of handbook (an AUSU/AU joint project)
6. On Line Voting for Spring Elections
7. Student Awareness – 4x a year contact
8. 10% of members registered on website
9. Geographic Lobbying
10. Judicial Affairs Board
11. National Student Group Representation

These are all fine goals, though I might suggest that they are just that – goals, rather than projects. Clearly the majority of council focus at this time is on public relations, and increasing the number of students who accessed the current AUSU projects. The first item on the list, the student Mentor program, is still in development but slated to begin in the new year.

Other suggested projects for the new year include:

1. Water for Exam Centres
2. Framework for an AUSU hosted Distance Ed Conference
3. Revising AUSU scholarships, and increasing needs based scholarships.
4. Increased Geographic Representation on Council
5. Higher Profile on AU site
6. Discounts from AU for courses (re: bursaries and contests)
7. A Database of Student Inquiries

As always, if you have any questions about my comments, write me. If you have questions about the plans or actions of AUSU, write them at ausu@ausu.org. Either way, ask, ask, ask!

That’s all folks:

Merry Christmas to all our readers,

Tamra Ross Low
Editor in Chief

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