While last night’s six-hour Associated Students Legislative Council meeting’s legislation primarily entailed a series of bureaucratic bills to restructure the organization’s various bodies, the council members also spent a great deal of time in discussion on the association’s struggle to identify the extent of the law.
The council’s concerns centered on a new plan to hold closed meetings when discussing personnel, a move taken under the advice of A.S. Executive Director Marisela Marquez. Although current representatives have yet to fully enact this procedure, the governing body previously held a series of unannounced closed meetings, beginning on Jan. 27, 2010, to conceal fines incurred for damages to a private villa during a retreat financed by student funds. In line with its latest policy shift, the council opened the minutes of last week’s meeting to remove the names of three staff members discussed therein.
Marquez, a permanent staff member whose functioning is supervised by the A.S. President according to the Legal Code, said this measure is necessary since openly addressing questions about personnel could place the organization in legal danger. However, Marquez did not specify the potential charges or penalties faced.
“That’s the thing with confidential issues of personnel — it involves a person,” Marquez said. “They can pursue legal action against the association and that’s a risk so that’s another reason why personnel matters are dealt with confidentially.”
Additionally, Marquez said she is available for questions about A.S.’s procedures and responsibilities to the students, campus and human resources department.
Internal Vice President Chloe Stryker, who was present at the 2010 retreat and subsequent closed meetings, said enforcing the confidentiality of proceedings involving staff negotiations would be a sound policy.
“When it comes down to personnel we should be talking in closed meetings,” Stryker said.
While the names removed from the public forum and discussion sections of last week’s minutes were not released, Rep-at-Large Nate Walker said this was the most reasonable action for the council to take.
“Considering that I feel that as far as publicity and names go the damage has been dealt, in the interests of Legislative Council’s legal sanctity I motion to amend Leg. Council’s minutes to strike out the names,” Walker said.
The motion to obscure the contents of the Sept. 28 meeting was passed with only four members voting against it and one abstaining. However, On-Campus Rep Jonathan Abboud said this action permanently erases the exact proceedings of the Sept. 28 meeting.
“I wouldn’t agree with striking out the names because it’s the only public record we have of it,” Abboud said.
Off-Campus Rep Kadeem Coad said the governing body now faces the challenge of maintaining transparency without incurring legal repercussions, the scope of which remains vague.
“If you’re having an open meeting and some of their personal information is used they can sue or file a grievance, so it’s hard to find that balance and have an effective conversation.” Coad said. “But I’m not sure what all the regulations for that are currently; I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from anyone who I’ve asked, so…”
Former Off-Campus Rep Stanley Tzankov, who led a group project last year that resulted in the mandated recording of all the council’s meetings, said it is essential that students receive notice should the council decide to hold closed meetings.
“It’s obviously something that isn’t fair to students,” Tzankov said. “I’m someone who’s all about having transparency in these walls — that’s why I put it in our Legal Code that we have to record these meetings.”
Additionally, Coad said the council would be in violation of A.S. Legal Code if a replacement for former Judicial Council Chair Jeanne Sabin, who recently resigned, isn’t finalized within two weeks.
“We’re going to hold interviews,” Coad said. “Basically the Committee on Committees Chair selects who he thinks should be the chair and then it goes to Legislative Council for approval, so Legislative Council has the final say, I guess.”
Marquez can be reached at (805) 893-4141 for more information regarding A.S. policies, procedures and accountability.
Assistant University Editor Marissa Wenzke contributed reporting to this article.