The Undergraduate Senate Committee on Rules and Privileges approved a motion Sunday to sustain the impeachment charges filed against SG Comptroller Matt Handverger.
The entire SG Senate body will decide to sustain or dismiss the charges at a special session this week.
On Friday, Senator-at-large Jared Alves filed charges of negligence under the oath of office and failure to complete the required weekly office hours during the summer. The committee, comprised of three senators, sustained both of these charges.
The Committee on Rules and Privileges consisted of Sen. Steve Dalton, Sen. Carmyn Rios and Alves.
The first charge states Handverger violated Article V, Section ii, Subsection 3 of the SG bylaws. The subsection states, “It is the responsibility of officials receiving compensation to submit timesheets that are complete and correct to the Comptroller. Such timesheets shall be under their signature. It is the responsibility of the Comptroller to assure that timesheets are complete and correct.”
Alves accused Handverger of falsifying his time sheets by logging office hours from home.
Each SG executive is allotted three weeks of vacation time during the summer. During the summer, the executives must work 20 office hours per week for 12 weeks. Handverger worked 290.5 hours this summer, according to his timesheets, 50.5 hours more than the required 240 hours.
One of those weeks, Handverger logged 18 hours rather than 20, for the week of May 25 to 31, according to timesheets. He acknowledged some of those 18 hours were not completed in the SG office since he had gone home for his brother’s graduation. Handverger said he e-mailed his fellow executives about the graduation and spending 13 hours in the office. He also asked for work to do from home but was not given any, he said.
There are no written documents requiring an executive to spend the required office hours in the SG office, according to SG President Andrew MacCracken. The only other case of an executive spending office hours out of the office was Sarah Brown, director of Women’s Initiative, who was abroad during part of her term until June 22.
“We’ve been working under the assumption that office hours meant being on campus and available,” MacCracken said. “That’s what we have been working off of for the summer.”
Speaker of the Senate Anthony Dunham asked the other SG executives, Vice President Alex Prescott and Secretary Colin Meiselman, what their opinions were on the office hours requirement.
Both officers said it was their understanding that office hours must be completed in the office after an SG executive meeting last semester about expectations.
Handverger said that was part of his understanding, but he thought working from home could count as well.
The second charge claims Handverger violated the oath of office which reads, “I (state your name) do solemnly swear that I will diligently and faithfully execute the duties and responsibilities of the office of (office name), that I will abide by the governing documents of the Student Government and that I will work to my fullest abilities to promote the interests and welfare of the students of American University.”
Alves said he has evidence to sustain both charges, including an e-mail record dating back to April, timesheets submitted by Handverger, a request from Handverger to delete former AUTO Commissioner Cory Ward’s application for the position, unspecified testimony as well as Facebook statuses.
“I ask that you permit me to tell a story in the coming days,” Alves said at the hearing, “not of an officer who meant ill will toward the student body, but of a student whose actions and inactions reveal that the Office of the Comptroller was never his best fit.”
Handverger mentioned that malicious intent is considered during U.S. criminal proceedings and said there is no malicious intent in his case. He said he strongly believes in transparency and honesty and has told the truth.
“I hope you can understand my anger and frustration when it seems to me that others feel my honesty and transparency are the charges that are punishable by impeachment,” Handverger said.
Before the committee moved to sustain the charges, Alves told Handverger it was not his intention to blindside him with impeachment charges.
Handverger said he never had a conversation with the SG Senate about the possibility of impeachment charges.
Dunham sent Handverger an e-mail on Friday at 4:33 p.m. to notify him of the charges. At 9:30 p.m. the same day, Dunham sent a press release to The Eagle and ATV with information about the charges.
Dunham said he felt e-mail was the best and most professional way to notify Handverger of the charges.
“I’m sure they didn’t call President Clinton saying, ‘hey, you’re going to be impeached,’” he said.
Handverger did not check his e-mail Friday evening and was unaware of the charges until an Eagle reporter asked for Handverger’s response to the charges at Friday’s Broken Lizard event, hosted by the Student Union Board.
“A phone call would have prevented this entire debacle,” Handverger said at the hearing. Receiving the news from a reporter was the “pinnacle of the debacle,” he said.
MacCracken said he first heard the term “impeachment” being mentioned seriously around a week to a week-and-a-half ago. Soon after, he brought up the possibility with Handverger, MacCracken said.
He was not aware official impeachment charges were filed until Friday’s press release was sent out, MacCracken said.
“[MacCracken told me] the Senate could do anything from censure to impeachment on something as petty as this,” Handverger said.
After the committee debated the charges, Alves motioned to sustain the first charge. Dalton paused before seconding the motion. Alves then motioned to sustain the second charge. Again, Dalton paused before seconding the motion.
Dalton later explained his decision, saying he believes the entire Undergraduate Senate, rather than three people, should determine the validity of the charges.
“Despite what rumors, and what nameless faceless people have said and written, I have been no part of any consorted effort to destroy Mr. Handverger,” Dalton said. “I come to the session today not with zeal but with sorrow. I wish there was some other way these charges could have been dealt with.”