By Jen Gomez and Melanie Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 12, 1996
The Undergraduate Senate unanimously approved the appointment of a new director for ASUA's disability advocacy group last night despite the fact that the meeting was allegedly held in violation of ASUA's bylaws and the Arizona Open Meetings Law.
Disabled students gathered at the meeting asked senators not to approve the appointment by Mindy McCollum,vice president for programs and services, to make Ann Fowler the new director of the Association of Students with Disabilities. They also presented the Senate with a petition signed by 24 ASD members who support Eric Olson, an optical engineering sophomore and candidate for ASD director. Members of the group also read five letters opposing Fowler's appointment.
Brian McCracken, family studies sophomore and former ASD director, said he was against Fowler's appointment because she was not an ASD member and has never been involved with the organization.
He asked the Undergraduate Senate to reconsider the choice for ASD director.
"It's not a personal vendetta against Fowler. We encourage her to apply next year," McCracken said.
In response to the criticisms that Fowler has no experience with ASD, McCollum said ASUA bylaws do not require that the person appointed be a current member.
McCollum also defended her recommendation by presenting last year's ASD budget to the Senate. She pointed out that the group spent $690 on food for meetings while never suggesting any new programs or services to ASUA.
"The mission of the director of ASD is to be the watchful eye for disabled students on campus. There was nothing in the files about anything they had done from last year," McCollum said.
In an interview, McCracken said the budget figure was the result of an accounting error, which was later corrected.
But McCollum said the budget she presented to the Senate was current because she obtained it the morning of the meeting.
McCracken said ASD did implement programs and services but said he could not provide any information about them during the meeting.
After listening to comments about Fowler's appointment, Sen. Ryan Anderson moved to hold an executive session, a meeting in which a legislative body convenes privately. All the senators were present and approved the motion unanimously.
The Arizona Open Meetings Law states that 24 hours notice must be given to the public if any meeting, including an executive session, is to be held. A public body can call an executive session only in specific instances, such as when it will be discussing matters like personnel decisions or consulting with a lawyer. The advance notice must state the specific provision of law authorizing the executive session.
ASUA bylaws state all legislative body meetings must conform to the Arizona Open Meetings Law, however, no notice of an executive session was on the meeting's agenda.
The law does provide for an emergency session to be held without prior notice, but the reason for the emergency measure must be announced publicly immediately before the executive session.
Before the Senate met privately, however, there was no indication from ASUA officials that the matter was being considered an emergency.
Anderson simply stated, "We are meeting to discuss this." The senators then left the room.
Upon returning about 20 minutes later, Sen. Kim Montanaro moved that the confirmation of appointments take priority over other issues on the agenda. That motion was approved unanimously.
Fowler was given an opportunity to speak before the senators cast their votes.
"I understand their concern that I was not a member of ASD," Fowler said. "The director has not been doing their job promoting the program. The campus is in need of safety upgrades and repairs of the streets and sidewalks," she added.
Before the senators voted, the Arizona Daily Wildcat interjected to state for the record it believed the executive session was held illegally.
"We're just going to continue," Undergraduate Senate President Gilbert Davidson responded.
Senators then approved all of the programs and services appointments.
The Senate then moved on to the approval of presidential appointments, and Davidson announced that the Senate again was going into executive session, to discuss these appointments.
"Did everyone catch that?" Davidson asked and laughed before repeating that executive session had been called.
When asked after the meeting whether the executive session had been an emergency, Davidson said it was because it was a private matter and the only people privileged to the applicants' personal information were the review committee and the Undergraduate Senate.
In an interview after the meeting, Olson, the candidate the ASD members had wanted as director, said he was disappointed but would respect the decision.
"Whether it's right or wrong, they have done what they've done," he said. "Those people were put in office to represent us."