By: Kate Rogers, News Editor
An unauthorized account opened in September by the Gorham Campus Activities Board (GCAB) was recently seized and audited by the Student Senate. The existence of this account and the involvement of the student government business office in its creation was one of several concerns that lead to Student Senate forming a grievance committee, according to Student Senate Treasurer David Reed.
The committee’s goal is to investigate violations of Student Senate policy that may have been due to permission from university employees according to Senator Jade Whiting, chair of the committee. They will also be investigating alleged misconduct by university employees.
“Goals of the committee include determining if misconduct occurred and what that misconduct was specifically, as well as all people who were involved both on the giving and receiving ends,” Whiting said.
Reed is heading the finance committee that will be working with the grievance committee. The grievance committee members as it stands now are Senators Marshall Woods, Marcella Marino, Aaron Sciulli and Tyler Soucy as the vice chair. All members of the grievance committee are also on the finance committee, which will look into the financial policy violations while the grievance committee looks into personnel issues, according to Whiting and Reed. Other members may join according to Whiting.
The student government business office consists of two people: Drew Masterman, Coordinator of Student Organization Operations and Support; and Latré Sibi, CL3 for Student Government Operations. In 2018 Masterman was the only employee in the business office, as Sibi was hired in 2019. The function of the business office is to carry out the budget made by the Student Senate for the Student Government Association (SGA) and all the organizations within, according to Reed.
On August 16 David Roussel, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, called a meeting to discuss how the SGA is spending money. The Dean of Students, financial advisors from the UMaine system and USM’s legal council were in attendance according to David Lewis, Student Activities Coordinator and advisor for GCAB.
A main concern in this meeting was that student organizations had been making some purchases using the purchase and travel cards of university employees such as advisors, and then paying them back according to Roussel and Lewis. These purchases were for payments that had to be made quickly, such as online payments, or payments requiring a card held like when staying in a hotel.
At the meeting, the UMaine system made it clear that they could no longer do this because the SGA is its own unincorporated association. The SGA is not tax exempt like the employee’s purchase cards and travel cards are. Along with this, it was simply an inconvenient process according to Lewis.
The concept of SGA organizations having their own cards connected to an account of their own to solve this problem was brought up as a solution according to Lewis and Roussel.
The current policy for spending within student organizations is that a purchase order must be filled out and signed by three authorized signers before any money is spent. There was no policy at the time of this meeting that would allow for any sort of card to be used by a student organization.
During the meeting, Lewis sent an email to the business office asking if student organizations opening their own cardholder account was possible. “The business office … they clearly said this is a great direction to go in and they supported it,” said Lewis.
Further discussion over email then took place between the business office, Student Senate Chair Alex Holderith, and Student Body President Averi Varney. Lewis said that he and Hannah Qui, the financial chair of GCAB, were cc’d on these emails. That the account would be in violation was not made clear during this discussion, according to Lewis. “This whole thing was created as a temporary fix,” said Lewis.
On Sept.16, Masterman sent an email to the University Credit Union with a signed document attached authorizing GCAB to open the account with Lewis and Qui as the signers.
Everyone in the Student Senate was in favor of the idea, according to Holderith. However, there was no authorization by the Senate to open the account and for any money to be transferred into it. “Student Affairs … took the lead on this project. Student Senate had no knowledge of this occurring,” Holderith said.
The GCAB account has been handed over to the Student Senate. According to Reed, all the purchases made without purchase orders were accounted for with receipts and were deemed appropriate use of funds after investigation.
“There was a misstep and some miscommunication and maybe a lack of understanding of the policies and procedures expected by the Student Senate to have this type of transaction,” said Roussel about the account.
Reed is currently working on a policy that would allow student organizations to use e-purchase cards, and said that it will be in effect by the spring semester.
The grievance committee will continue to investigate areas of concern. There will possibly be a meeting over winter break, but it has not been decided. According to Whiting, the committee will exist for as long as it takes to determine the problem and solve it. “I believe it is important to hold the employees in question to the highest standard of scrutiny and I think the grievance committee can at the very least serve to bring attention to this possible misconduct,” said Whiting.
The complaints presented by Free Press Editor-In-Chief Alyson Peabody in her letters from the editor on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 will be some of those investigated according to Reed.