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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Report: Bernsen often absent

    Student Body President Cade Bernsen was absent from several mandatory meetings last fall and threatened to fire several members of his staff, constituting behavior that “”may not be appropriate”” for a president, according to a report filed with the student senate.

    Bernsen maintains that he never missed a meeting without a good excuse and that he never threatened his staff, the report stated.

    The Arizona Daily Wildcat received the report after filing a public records request yesterday. UA officials removed all names of students from the report, meaning that Bernsen’s name does not appear in the copy obtained by the Wildcat.

    But by the nature of the report, which at several points lists the required duties of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona president and also lists several events that Bernsen participated in, the Wildcat is confident that the report is about Bernsen, a political science senior.

    Additionally, the Wildcat specifically requested the report involving Bernsen discussed at last night’s senate meeting, and the student government president was mentioned in the cover letter of the report’s copy (see page 11 for the complete report).

    The document summarized the findings of an ASUA investigation into possible cause for Bernsen’s impeachment.

    The investigation was completed by Isaac Crum, a second-year law student who was hired by ASUA for the task.

    The ASUA senate, which is the body with power to recommend an impeachment, is now no longer looking at Bernsen’s alleged sexual harassment actions and is instead helping to investigate whether Bernsen should be removed from office because of nonfeasance and malfeasance infractions, Sen. Ashley Eden said.

    According to the report, nonfeasance is defined as “”the failure to act with a duty to act existed,”” and malfeasance is defined as “”a wrongful or unlawful act; esp., wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official.””

    Eden said it isn’t the senate’s role nor would its members feel comfortable investigating Bernsen’s sexual harassment charges, and the senate is leaving the matter in the hands of the Dean of Students Office.

    Bernsen was accused in November by two women in ASUA of sexual harassment. Bernsen has consistently denied the claims, which are being investigated by the Dean of Students Office.

    “”We decided not to pursue that and felt the Dean of Students Office would be better fit for such a case,”” said Eden, a public administration senior.

    Sen. Jami Reinsch said the senate would pursue the matter more at the meeting Wednesday, though she wouldn’t comment further.

    “”What he found is what we’ll be voting on,”” said Reinsch a media arts junior. “”I’m going to save my opinion for next week.””

    Reinsch said she is glad the senators have a week to consider the results.

    “”I like how it was presented and that we have a week to think it over, which I prefer over having to hear the report and vote all at once,”” Reinsch said.

    Facts support the claims that Bernsen missed numerous private meetings, cabinet meetings and committee meetings. Attendance at Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona Student Association meetings are mandated by ASUA’s Constitution and bylaws, according to the report.

    Bernsen maintains, however, that his absences from the board of regents and ASA meetings that he was obligated to attend were with just cause.

    Private meetings and cabinet meetings are more of a professional courtesy rather than a constitutional mandate, the report stated.

    On Dec. 1, both ASA and the board of regents met for their final meetings of the year with Bernsen absent without notification from both sessions because, according to Bernsen, the sexual harassment allegations had surfaced two days prior, the report stated.

    Bernsen also missed an ASA and board of regents meeting Sept. 29 because he was visiting family in Beaumont, Texas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, but he notified officials and had another official attend in his place, according to the report.

    If the senators decide to pursue impeachment charges against Bernsen, Sen. Ryan Montana Erickson said a senator will be chosen today by the senators and Jim Drnek, student government adviser and associate dean of students.

    That senator would meet with Kiel Berry, ASUA’s legal counselor, to discuss the matter further and “”draft articles of impeachment,”” said Erickson, a public administration junior.

    A date for the impeachment hearing could be decided next week if the item is placed on the senate agenda by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    If the articles are put on the agenda, the senators will vote on whether the articles of impeachment should be sent to the supreme court.

    To make that decision, the senators will meet in executive session unless Bernsen objects and decides the matter should be open to the public, said Sen. Patrick Cook, a pre-education junior.

    “”It would be taking the first step in the impeachment process,”” if they decide to make it an item on the agenda, Reinsch said. “”We as a senate would be saying there is enough (information) to go through the process.””

    Cook said it’s still too early for him to comment on Bernsen’s guilt or innocence because of the ambiguity of the document he received at Wednesday’s senate meeting, which contained the words “”will”” and “”shall”” in regards to the president’s responsibility or obligation to attend meetings.

    “”I’m still questioning whether or not Cade has done any impeachable offenses,”” Cook said. “”Any elected official can face disciplinary actions despite ambiguity in the language of the (ASUA) constitution.””

    Erickson said he also hasn’t read the document thoroughly and wouldn’t comment on his possible course of action because he “”didn’t want to influence the decision-making powers of other senators.””

    Erickson commended the work of Berry and Crum and said Wednesday’s senate meeting was objective from all parties involved.

    “”We couldn’t have asked for anything better,”” Erickson said.

    Another senator elaborated on her reaction to the report’s mention of Bernsen’s actions regarding open appointments.

    Bernsen appointed his roommate Tyler Carrell, who stepped down from his position as the president’s chief of staff to take over the elections commissioner position after Michael Franklin resigned in October.

    Yesterday, Eden was quick to criticize the appointment of Carrell because no election was held.

    Eden said the process to replace Franklin should have been “”publicized and handled better”” but realized there were time constraints.

    Because there was a vote on the Student Recreation Center fee less than a week away, a replacement needed to be officially recognized despite Carrell assuming the role once Franklin resigned.

    Erickson disagreed and said there’s been difficulty for ASUA to get publicity for positions such as elections commissioner because there are only so many motivated students in the pool of people who usually get involved with an ASUA position.

    “”Tyler was used as a utility person to do various jobs around the office, and he took it upon himself to make this sacrifice and get the job done,”” Erickson said. “”This was only done in a rush because of the pinch to get the job done. Tyler was capable and was the best choice at the time.””

    Suspicions were raised again when Carrell unexpectedly resigned from his post as elections commissioner soon after Bernsen’s alleged sexual misdeeds were made public by the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

    “”Tyler claimed personal and health reasons and I couldn’t second-guess that,”” Eden said.

    The Dean of Students Office would not comment on the investigation of the sexual misconduct allegations, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

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