The Student Government Undergraduate Senate declared Chair of the Judicial Board, Anthony Dunham, not guilty of negligence of duty at a Jan. 30 trial.
Dunham will continue to hold his position as chair.
“I pledge before you today that my efforts will be redoubled to ensure that the office that I have been entrusted will be carried out to the fullest extent of my abilities,” Dunham told the Senate.
He was charged with failure to appear before the Senate to present his rulings, to hold office hours and to complete timesheets while receiving pay for his duties.
Before the impeachment trial began, Senator-at-Large Joe Wisniewski, the lead prosecutor, moved to withdraw his charges against Dunham.
Dunham had proposed to Wisniewski that he would give SG a check for $750, Dunham’s total salary, effectively working for free in exchange for ending the impeachment trial.
Wisniewski’s motion failed with a vote of 7-10-2. Wisniewski chose to step down as lead prosecutor.
“It was about the ideals I was trying to insert into this debate: being mature, having restraint and having, most importantly, respect for all parties,” Wisniewski said.
Co-sponsors of the impeachment charges Bart Thompson and Al Robinson, who disagreed with the compromise, became lead sponsors of the charges.
“Joe’s greatest quality as a senator is his ability to compromise,” Thompson said. “The problem was that it was not the time to compromise.”
The lead prosecutors claimed Dunham had not completed his office hours, using his blank time sheets as evidence.
Dunham argued, with the help of witness Damita Salmon, president of AU’s chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho, that he was completing his office hours in the greek life office rather than in the SG office. Dunham also called Phil Cardarella, chair of the Board of Elections, as a witness.
“I cannot express how grateful I am to Phil Cardarella, the chairman of the Board of the Elections,” Dunham said. “Without him I would have had little direction and almost no hope.”
The Senate eventually voted to let Dunham finish his term as chairman, with 14 senators voting against impeachment, three voting in favor and one abstaining.
Some senators said they were worried that bringing up impeachment charges against Dunham set a precedent, and the Senate may bring impeachment charges against an SG official for smaller offenses.
“I was afraid, if we ended impeaching Anthony Dunham and set such a low standard for the word ‘impeachment,’ that it would turn into a witch hunt,” Wisniewski said. “I think, by ruling against this case and by ruling against this impeachment, we set a clear standard that that will not fly, and I’m very glad that my compromise did not go through as a result.”
Wisniewski plans to propose new SG bylaws that would clarify impeachment proceedings in the future.
The last SG impeachment trial was in 2009 against Comptroller Matt Handverger for charges related to falsified timesheets and negligence, similar to the charges brought up against Dunham, The Eagle previously reported. Although Handverger’s charges were eventually dropped, like the charges against Dunham, Handverger announced his resignation during the trial.
Full disclosure: Sen. Al Robinson, a co-sponsor of the bill to impeach Dunham, works for The Eagle’s business office. The editorial and business offices are wholly independent of each other, and The Eagle remains committed to balanced, unbiased coverage of these proceedings.