The newly elected representatives of Associated Students Legislative Council will meet for the first time today after securing their positions in last month’s Spring elections.
Among the issues discussed at the meeting will be a resolution asking the council’s only re-elected member, On-Campus Representative Joe Lee, to step down from his position and forgo his appointment as Representative-at-Large for 2011-12. Lee was arrested in connection with a laptop theft on April 27 and will attend a hearing at the Santa Barbara Courthouse today after pleading not guilty to charges of grand theft, felony burglary, unauthorized altering of computer data system and receiving stolen property.
Lee said he has no plans of resigning from his Representative-at-Large position at this time but will survey students’ opinions on the matter with an online petition. If 20 percent of the student body signs the petition in favor of his resignation, Lee said he will then step down from his post.
Lee said the decision of whether he will stay on legislative council should ultimately be in the hands of the students who appointed him.
“When it comes to serving as a council member, where my position was solidified by student body, I feel like in order for me to be dropped down, it should be through the same process,” Lee said. “That is why I came up with the idea for this petition. I am at any time willing to voluntarily drop down, but I would like to see a fair and due process.”
Due to the requirement that such a document must be circulated with the approval of A.S. Elections Committee, the online petition would most likely not be available until the Fall Quarter 2011 according to Lee.
The resolution on today’s council agenda, titled “A Resolution to Condemn Joe Lee for his Actions During the Spring General Election,” was authored by newly elected On-Campus Representative Jonathan Abboud, a former friend of Lee’s. Abboud said it is important that the council adopt the measure to end Lee’s continued participation in student government decisions.
“By Legislative Council not condemning Joe Lee’s actions, it sends the message that they are okay with it,” Abboud said. “My main goal with this resolution is to state that A.S. doesn’t support having people on council who don’t respect their constituents. Lee was an On-Campus Rep and the two people he stole from were residents.”
According to A.S. Legal Code, there is no method for Associated Students to remove a member of legislative council unless they are not fully performing their duties — necessitating a recall election initiated either through legislative council or by 20 percent of the student body officially agreeing to remove Lee.
Internal Vice President-Elect Chloe Stryker said in her three years in A.S., she had never encountered a situation where this type of action has been necessary. Stryker said the resolution will not guarantee that Lee will resign from his post and can do nothing more than urge him to comply.
“[The decision] is up to the student body or the person resigning,” Stryker said. “We can ask him to resign, but ultimately it’s his decision. Even if this resolution passed, he could still foreseeably stay on.”
Lee said the resolution is not an acceptable way to decide whether or not he should stay on the council.
“I think a resolution written by a certain individual with only 10 sponsors from his area, who may or may not have voted, is kind of unfair,” Lee said. “The method used to take me out of council should be the same methods used to put me in.”
Abboud said supporting elected officials who cannot be trusted to respect the personal property of their constituents creates fear and tension among the student body.
“Stealing from residents as a currently elected official makes people scared in the residence halls,” Abboud said. “If even the highest of the high will steal from people, then what about the guy down the hall?”
Stryker said she is not arguing for or against Lee’s resignation but understands how people might argue that his felonies are born from personal issues.
“There is the argument of how much your personal life affects your professional life,” Stryker said. “He does do good work and is a dedicated member of the council.”
Fourth-year political science major Tracy Lyon said Lee’s actions do not necessarily affect his job but do speak volumes about his ethics.
“While the crime didn’t have anything to do with his job, it does indicate a lot about his moral character,” said Lyon. “When you are a public figure, your personal life should be held to some sort of moral standards.”
Abboud said he encourages students with strong opinions about Lee to attend the public forum at tonight’s meeting.
“If anyone anywhere feels that [Lee] should not be a Representative-at-Large, they should show up for public forum,” Abboud said. “While we do have 10 student sponsors, the impact will be a lot more if students that don’t even know him show up.”