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SA President: Oversight bill vote was ‘predetermined’

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Minds were already set to pass conference oversight reform before last week’s senate meeting, Student Association President Jerlisa Fontaine claimed.

Legislation to prohibit SA officials from touching conference funds without legislative approval passed the senate with a super-majority, but was vetoed by Fontaine.

Certain the legislation would complicate spending and spur micromanagement, she was in a small pool of voices who sounded opposition to the bill.

And she believes those voices weren’t factored into the final vote. 

“If you look at the demographic of the room, affiliations, whatever the case is, it was predetermined,” she said. “But I mean, it’s fine.”

Fontaine declined to specify “affiliations.”

But Senate Chair Jarrett Altilio considers the remarks a hit on Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity 23 out of 49 senators, including him, hold ties with.

According to voting records from the senate chamber, 13 of those with PAD ties supported the bill, two didn’t, and one abstained (Sean Correia’s no vote was “accidental,” Altilio noted). Outsiders accounted for eight OKs, six no-votes, and two abstentions. Sixteen senators were absent at the time of the decision.

“Look at the third of the people who voted the other way. What’s to be said about them?” Altilio said in response to Fontaine’s remarks after the meeting.

Most senators who voted against the bill didn’t vocalize opposition. The debate was largely a back-and-forth between cabinet members and the senate.

VIDEO PRODUCED BY TYLER A. MCNEIL / ASP

Jeffrey Shapiro, a humanities senator, was an outspoken representative against the bill. He argued that no other portion of SA’s internal budget has a legislative check on it and voiced concerns about repurposing money allocated to the executive branch for conferences in the wake of a rejection by the senate.

“At that point they’re not going to be able to reuse that money,” Shapiro told the senate. “That money is sitting around; it’s an inefficiency and we’re doing a disservice to our students.”

Altilio countered: “Our hands are not tied here just because we passed a budget. The senate makes the budget and passes the budget. We have every bit of control over this.”

SA allocates $12,000 for the organization’s executive branch to attend conferences — $5,000 as part of the “Student Association Operating” conference line. The remaining $7,000 is set aside for summer training purposes and conferences.

The last SA trip influenced Anna Agnes, chair of Government Operations, to sponsor the bill. Several executive board members and the senate vice chair earlier this month attended the National Student Leadership Diversity Convention in New Orleans during Mardi Gras weekend.

Critics argued that the trip wasted money and lacked transparency.

Executive board members started planning to attend the conference in January. Fontaine called the trip “last minute.”

Subha Tasnim, senate vice chair, and Altilio are reportedly the only senators directly notified about the trip by the executive board before the senate’s Jan. 31 meeting.

Altilio, who was critical of the executive board’s lack of communication, said he was not responsible for spreading word of the trip among senators.

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Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

2 Comments

  1. anonymous
    February 19, 2018 at 2:55 pm — Reply

    This is crazy.

  2. AngryStudent
    February 19, 2018 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    It sounds like she got to take her little vacation, everyone voted against it happening again, and now she’s throwing a tantrum. The mardi gras trip was a waste of money, everyone knows it. It is absolutely fair to require oversight every time someone recommends we drop thousands of dollars to send students to a “conference” on our dime. If it’s a legitimate trip, you have nothing to worry about, right? Should be approved no problem?

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