Committee Drops Charges in Ethics Investigation, Finance Chair Resigns
Austin Ostro Struck With Unanimous No Confidence Vote by Board of Finance
Wednesday, Mar. 8 Update: Austin Ostro stepped down from the board of finance on Sunday, Mar.5. Micheal Spellane, the most recent BOF member of who filled Julia Alford’s seat in December, assumed the chair.
Both ethics complaints were dropped, Emma Benz, chair of the ethics subcommittee, announced at the senate meeting.
With long time senator Sarah Petrak’s senate resignation, two BOF seats were vacated. Kelvin Collazo, first year senator-at-large, and Jillian Guerra, off campus senator, were confirmed by the senate to fill both seats on Wednesday, Mar.8.
Student Association board of finance officials are calling for Austin Ostro to exit the group amid back-to-back ethics complaints.
Pressure for Ostro to resign — namely a unanimous no confidence vote by the BOF last Tuesday — has been ongoing since the allegations came to light late last month. In an interview on Mar. 1, Ostro said that while he will eventually step down as chair, he does not expect to leave the board.
Ostro was accused of withholding information, limiting contact with the office of student involvement, and sparring with faculty and SA officials over his tenure, said a source close to the investigation. He dismissed the complaints as “fake news” (Ostro later said that his comment was sarcastic).
BOF officials have been at odds with Ostro on multiple occasions since he assumed chair. Moller, a BOF member, said that internal rifts started to boil over this semester. Most recently, she claimed that Ostro created an error-filled budget packet without board input.
“With one less body — him not there — we could even function better,” she said. “It wouldn’t be a negative.”
In recent weeks, friction between BOF leadership has been made public. During a board report at the Feb. 22 senate meeting, Melissa Mosby, vice chair, smeared the absent chair as “Dictator Ostro.”
At last week’s senate meeting, Ostro yelled at Mosby for spreading what he described as negativity after she called him out for not mentioning the no confidence vote in his report. In response, Mosby cursed at Ostro and the senate.
“Her actions are completely unacceptable and I think there are going to be consequences for it,” said Ostro.
Along with condemning Mosby’s actions, Ostro called the BOF “despicable” for allegedly refusing to meet. Several members denied this claim. The Albany Student Press could not verify this claim.
Additionally, Ostro believes the no confidence vote held little weight.
“We’re not the U.K. parliament,” he said. “It’s not a thing we can do.”
SA follows most parliamentary guidelines under Robert’s Rules of Order. A no confidence vote is not defined under Robert’s Rules, but such an action can be adopted.
While a no vote confidence yields no power over standing officers, the ethics subcommittee could recommend the senate to move the case to the SA Supreme Court. The group, lead under Emma Benz, will make a determination before Wednesday’s meeting.
This is the second probe within BOF ranks in four months. Last semester, Julia Alford, then a member of the board, was under the cloud of investigation after accusing Ostro of making misogynistic remarks. Before resigning from the board, Alford faced impeachment proceedings for slander, violating confidentiality, and acting without integrity.
Benz has reached out to some SA members to halt details from being spread. The subcommittee, she said, is struggling to plug leakers.
“Since they were filed by so many people, I can’t cut what people that filed say to other people,” said Benz. “I can only try.”
While Benz fears that leaks may interfere with the investigation, SA President Felix Abreu remains confident that BOF conflict will not curb the budget process. Next year’s budget will be up for proposal by the board by April should the student activity fee be kept mandatory.
“Time is of the essence now to focus on the budget,” said Abreu. “So I’m pretty sure they have that down pat.”