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Executives accuse Handverger of negligence as impeachment proceedings begin

Executives accuse Handverger of negligence as impeachment proceedings begin
PLANNING THE DEFENSE -- Respondent Matt Handverger confers with his special counsel, Tommy Fijacko, during the Tuesday night segment of Handverger\'s impeachment proceedings.

Click here to view a special report page on Handverger's impeachment proceedings.

Student Government Vice President Alex Prescott accused Comptroller Matt Handverger of negligence and falsification of time sheets during the first session of Handverger's impeachment trial.

Prescott, who claimed to have observed misconduct on Handverger's part, brought his concerns to Senator at large Jared Alves, who then pressed charges against the Comptroller.

Alves formally accused Handverger of negligence and falsification of time sheets Aug. 28. The Committee on Rules and Privileges then considered the charges on Aug. 30 and referred them to the full Undergraduate Senate.

The Senate proceedings began Tuesday night at 11:15 p.m. and dragged on till nearly 3 a.m. The Senate met again Wednesday night after The Eagle's deadline.

Under the SG bylaws, the Senate must meet within a week after impeachment charges are filed. There are no time restrictions on the impeachment proceedings, according to the Speaker of the Senate Anthony Dunham.

Originally, only two one-and-a-half hour sessions were planned for Wednesday and Thursday night. After it became clear the allotted time would not be sufficient, Class of 2010 Sen. Josh Rothman motioned to suspend the rules and increase the meeting's end time to 2 a.m. The motion failed originally before being reintroduced and passed later in the night. At the end of the meeting only three witnesses had taken the stand: SG President Andy MacCracken, who spoke for nearly an hour, Freshman Service Experience Coordinator Chris Guizlo and Vice President Alex Prescott. Prescott was scheduled to retake the stand at the commencement of Wednesday night's meeting.

Dunham gaveled the proceedings to order at 11:15 p.m. and asked the Senate conduct "a fair trial, a good trial."

The complainants and respondents were then permitted to read opening statements.

The complainants, headed by Alves and his colleague Rothman spoke first.

"This trial is about moving forward and the students of AU deserve the value of their Student Activity funds," Alves said. "They need to know that the $590,000 directed to the SG budget ... is spent efficiently. They need an effective comptroller."

Handverger and Special Counsel Tommy Fijacko headed the respondent team.

"I plan on presenting a very candid and transparent defense that will show that I have never been derelict in my duties," Handverger said. "The sections of the bylaws that I am accused of violating are being used on a purely technical basis without consideration of my outstanding track record of commitment to my work."

Soon after, MacCracken took the stand as the first witness for the complainants.

When asked about Handverger's time commitment, MacCracken said he had some frustrations.

"I had concerns with his time commitment ... My expectations are that if you have obligations that's totally fine," he said.

MacCracken expressed concern about Handverger's failure to provide a breakdown on how SG expenses had been spent over the last five years.

His duties did not include providing the breakdown for MacCracken because it is not mentioned in the bylaws, therefore the question was irrelevant, Handverger said.

After limited debate, Dunham ruled that according to the bylaws it was Handverger's duty to provide the president with fiscal information from the past five years as part of his job as comptroller.

Near the end of MacCracken's testimony, he explained that many students were frustrated when they attempted to sign out AUTO vans and were told their certification had expired without prior notification. During the summer, the comptroller oversees AUTO since the commissioner is not required to stay on campus. SG executives are required to spend 12 weeks of the summer on campus, and log at least 20 hours of office work per week.

Handverger asked MacCracken if it was negligent of him to stop people from driving AUTO vans if they were no longer certified.

"In that exact respect no, that is not negligence," MacCracken said. "You should not allow people on university terms to drive vans if they are not certified."

FSE Coordinator Guizlo's testimony continued the debate over Handverger's handling of AUTO. He was charged with procuring AUTO vans for FSE, a four-day service experience for freshman, run before the fall semester begins, according to my.american.edu.

Guizlo testified that he was given AUTO vans with mechanical problems and one without gas. Handverger, as acting AUTO commissioner during the summer, was responsible for the difficulties he encountered, according to Guizlo.

"We received a van that did not have gas, a van that did not have steering; we received a van that died four times," Guizlo said. "The upkeep of the AUTO vans was shoddy at best."

Handverger asserted that he was not a mechanic and should not be held liable for the mechanical failures of vehicles.

"He and his staff take out vans and inspect them for mechanical aspects," Handverger said. "I am not a certified mechanic."

A team of certified mechanics inspects the van every Monday, he said.

Guizlo still judged that Handverger had failed in his duties as comptroller.

"There was negligence on a personal level," Guizlo said. "I was able to still reserve and ride AUTO vans all summer long. I feel like it made my life and my fellow coordinators life that much more difficult."

After a brief recess called near 2 a.m. Prescott was called to the stand.

He said he felt he did not see Handverger in the SG office as often as he saw the other executives over the summer. He also said he did not think Handverger was working properly while he was in the office and Prescott began wondering how the comptroller was fulfilling his time, he said.

After bringing his concerns with Handverger to MacCracken, he approached Alves and Rothman.

Concerns over the comptroller's work ethic arose again this week when Handverger missed an executive meeting. Meiselman texted Handverger and asked if he was coming to the meeting.

"Shit, I'm swamped," Handverger replied.

"We still have work to do," Meiselman answered.

"I'm trying to work my way out of this mess," Handverger said, referring to the impeachment case.

Dunham then ruled that preparing defense does not count toward the 18 hours of mandated work hours.

The debate on the charges ended at 2:38 a.m. and resumed Wednesday night at 11:15 p.m.

Check theeagleonline.com for updates on the impeachment proceedings.

You can reach these staff writers at cszold@theeagleonline.com and landerson@theeagleonline.com.


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