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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Secretary censured by Union Senate after 7 hour closed executive session

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: News

Union Secretary Michael Goldman 08 was censured Sept. 23 by the Union Senate after seven hours of executive session, sources said, after being charged with disclosing closed elections information while races were still in progress. According to Student Union President Shreeya Sinha 09, the charges were brought for two separate incidents, neither of which affected the elections results.

What happened was that in the spring 2007 final round [of elections], we received information that the secretary had given out votes as the elections took place. The candidate received the votes and said to his friends how many votes he needed to win the election, said Sinha. We received new information [last Wednesday] that in the fall 2007 elections the secretary had released information to a non-candidate, who may or may not have told the candidate how the election was going after being warned already over what had occurred in the spring round, the E-board had asked for the resignation for the Secretary because we believe that elections must be fair and unbiased and the Executive Board felt that it jeopardized the integrity of the Student Union Election.

Goldman said he received no allegations from the Executive Office last semester, and responded by saying that the incident was that during the primary elections [this semester] which was last Tuesday, the 18th, I saw a friend she told me she was very worried about her friend, who was a candidate for Senate, and I told her you dont need to worry about your friend.

He continued, saying now both the third party friend there and the candidate swear that no information was transferred until after the election was over, no numbers were given, certainly in my opinion the hint was very limited in scope. Goldman added that if my actions were unconstitutional and therefore worthy of impeachment, then the elections were unconstitutional and have to be held again. I do not believe this is the case;

apparently Ms. Sinha does. Goldman stated that I apologize more than I can say for breaking the trust of the individuals involved in elections;

however this attack was not based on this incident, it was based on personalities and political gain.

When asked about with what constitutional breaches Goldman had been charged, Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray 10 said that I never knew that we needed to spell out that elections needed to be fair. He added that the Union Constitution basically says that the secretary must oversee and certify all elections. Its important to think of the integrity and see what elections do for a democracy.

According to Sinha, we wanted to come to a peaceful compromise, but unfortunately on this issue the secretary did not feel he should resign, at which point we felt there was no choice but to inform the Senate. She continued that it is our job as the Executive Board to be transparent with the Senate. We were unwilling to reach any closed-door compromise on this issue.

Union Advocate Brian Paternostro 08 added that we thought we had worked out an agreement where Michael would resign Friday morning he changed his mind over the holiday weekend and we felt that we had no choice but to bring this information to the Senate. We moved into executive session, at which point all of our discussions became confidential, but at the end of the discussions, the Senate had decided to censure Michael Goldman. According to Sinha, the Senates vote to censure was unanimous.

When asked about why the Union held most of its proceedings against Goldman in executive session, barring all non-Union members from the meeting, Sinha said that we did not want people targeting maliciously Michael Goldmans characterwe wanted to discuss the integrity of the Union, we wanted to discuss it internally. We wanted to discuss it as a Senate so the Senate could decide what sort of action they would pursue.

Goldman responded that I am outraged that the trial took place in executive session, closed from the eyes of the public, the executive office had hoped to expel my friends from the room who had come to speak on my behalf fortunately appointed Union members were invited to remain, and I was able to appoint my friends to the elections commission before the session closed.

Sinha added that there are no official voting, no official motions during executive sessions and that executive session becomes a discussion amongst people. Elections Commissioner Jacob Baime 08, who served as Goldmans council, disagreed: Everything happened in the executive session, thats the problem we walked into Executive Session prepared to defend Mike against an aggressive attempt for impeachment. We walked out with a censure, which we feel was the appropriate remedy. You can infer what happened in between.

When asked about the Unions use of straw polls during the Executive Session to determine the censuring, Sinha responded that straw polls are simply to gauge the temperature of the roomits non-binding, its what we commonly use in Senate meetings. As far as the merits of Executive Session, and what the Senators choose to do, its something youd probably want to bring up with the Senate.

Paternostro agreed, saying being strict constructionist doesnt make you morally superior I feel that strict constructionism should not be used to hinder change or fair process. This is the reason why the system gets a bad rap is because people use strict constructionism to prevent positive change. Still, Paternostro felt it was bad prioritizing to do it in executive session I think we prioritized someone we work with as opposed to the people we work for, which is not a mistake were going to make again.

Village Quad Senator Michael Kerns 09 said that I had no relationship nor did I know Mike Goldman whatsoever before these fall elections. In fact, I had found him to be helpful and dedicated, and I would not have had an opportunity to run in the election I had run in without his voluntary holding of a second candidates meeting however, with regard to the unethical actions Mike Goldman has openly admitted to having committed, Im livid that he is still in office.

Kerns added if there was a race, theoretically, where one person was behind by six, he could tell that person, hey buddy, why dont you go out and get those six votes? Our Student Union Secretary simply cheated democracy, tampering with elections, election fraud, which simply cannot be accepted. I am frankly saddened, hurt, and ashamed for Michael Goldmans adamant decision not to resign.

Paternostro agreed, saying that equity is the most important part of elections, it is clearly the guiding principle, sometimes even detrimentally soyou cant spend money, you have to use the same materials, even the same brand of stapler. Giving any candidate information is completely contrary to the spirit of elections.

Goldman alleged that the censureship was based on political motivations. The most important thing was that I spoke to Sinha on Sunday, just before the Senate meeting and asked her if there was any agreement we could come to that did not involve my resigning or impeachment, added Goldman. She said no, because you have taken controversial positions on numerous issues the E-board has addressed, including E-board appointments and the new UJ procedure and therefore have not proved yourself to be a friend of the E-Board. She specifically said this was the main reason why she was pursuing my impeachment. In other words, dissent has become an impeachable offense.

Sinha denied saying this: This is untruethe Secretarys actions speak for themselves. Elections must be fair and unbiased, and after being warned the first time and doing the same thing again, it shows that the Union must take this as an offense for the second time and must ask for resignation to uphold the values of the Student Union.

Still, Sinha and Gray both asserted that they respected the Senates decision, and would not pursue further action: We took the evidence, we separated the rumor from the truth, said Gray. We are constitutionally obliged to follow the Senates ruling were moving forward to get to all the good stuff.

Goldman, however, stated that I fear that it is only a matter of time before the next attempt on my career is made;

I do not know from whence the angle of attack will come, there are no provisions safeguarding against double jeopardy, so I could be tried for the same offenseI could be tried on the grounds that my disagreement with certain decisions interfered with the operations of the Executive Board. I could even be tried on the basis of this story in The Hoot.

Student reaction oscillated between the actions of Goldman and the Union itself. I see no problem with the censureship it seems logical to me, as I could see where that could be a problem, said Jared Hite 10. But doing it behind closed doors seems suspicious. I dont see why they needed it, which makes it seem worse.

Josh Sheena 08 felt that the punishment was not enough. I think the charges might have been a little much to begin with, but if they were going to shoot for impeachment, they should have followed through, he said. Essentially nothing has changed officially. It just doesnt jive with me that they wanted him out and they just gave him a slap on the wrist.

It seems like they went overboard with it to me, because executive session, a seven-hour meeting, of course he obviously implied that the candidate had wonit seems overeager response, almost that they want to show that theyre doing something, said Becca Freifeld 10. I dont think that anybody was harmed by what he said, and I think they went a little too far with the means of remedying the situation. It seems like they took the wrong stepsit seems like they have something invested in itI just dont think they took the proper steps.