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RHA president scolded, ordered to apologize

By David J. Cieslak
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 22, 1999
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Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat

President Matthew Meaker (right) must have the majority approval of all future expenditures for violating RHA's constitution in matters of funding as Rebecca Zilm, vice president for services, looks on last night at the RHA meeting. Meaker will also write a formal apology to be published in the Wildcat.

The UA Residence Hall Association president was told last night to seek official approval for all monetary expenditures and write a formal apology to be published in the Arizona Daily Wildcat for violating the organization's constitution.

In a two-hour meeting peppered with random bickering, Matthew Meaker told a 100-person body that he spent $58 of RHA funds to treat himself and about nine committee members to breakfast last semester without seeking approval from other executive board members.

RHA constitutional guidelines mandate that all expenditures be approved by a majority of the student-run executive board.

"I'm sorry," Meaker said. "I simply did not make the effort to contact the executive board by phone."

One audience member asked Meaker if he "knew at the time that he was violating" RHA's constitution.

"Technically, yes," Meaker responded. "At the point in time I made the mistake, I didn't see it as a mistake."

After a lengthy argument in the University of Arizona's Old Chemistry building and one suggestion from the audience that Meaker be forced to wear a dress to the next meeting, the group decided on his punishment.

"I would be more than willing to pay back the $58, write a written apology," Meaker told the audience. "I'm willing to accept whatever you guys see fit."

While several audience members voiced their support for Meaker, others denounced his actions and called for harsh sanctions.

"It's a question of integrity," said Colleen Brown, a resident assistant. "It was a blatant abuse of power. I don't think he would be standing in front of us if he hadn't been confronted with this issue."

Brown later suggested that Meaker be suspended from office for one month, but members voted against the idea.

"I honestly don't think that writing a letter to the Wildcat is just punishment for the action that was taken," Brown said after the meeting. "That was a slap on the wrist."

Others stood up for Meaker and blasted the group for prolonging the argument.

Paul Graziano, a Manzanita-Mohave resident assistant who was nearly fired by UA Residence Life last semester for an alcohol violation, supported Meaker and was met with loud applause from the audience.

"I'll admit it myself - I broke a policy," Graziano said. "This is stupid. We're watching him squirm and wasting a lot of time."

As one hour passed, others began to agree with Graziano.

"We're going around in circles talking about things and it's really dragging the organization down," said Shawn McDill, a finance senior. "Let's fix the organization."

As time pressed and Meaker's punishment had been approved, members decided to postpone future discussion until an "Inter-Hall Council" meeting.

While no location was disclosed, Meaker said the meeting, held Tuesday night at 7 p.m., would be open to the public.

RHA members also voted to form a committee that will investigate the constitutional violation and other issues surrounding last night's meeting.

"We're putting the whole concept of Matt Meaker's presidency in review," said Andrea McNabb, chair of the newly-formed committee.

Meaker refused comment after the meeting, but did say he would draft the apology letter and present it to the Wildcat next week.

Brian Barker, the Wildcat's editor-in-chief, agreed last night to publish the letter when Meaker submits it.

"Obviously, if he gives us a letter, we'll print it," Barker said. "That's what we do."

Read yesterday's article about the RHA president's admission that he spent RHA funds inappropriately.