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RHA officials accused of corruption

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 24, 2000
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The executive board members of the University of Arizona Residence Hall Association are facing accusations of corruption by a committee of other RHA delegates - charges that could result in the removal of the entire panel within a month.

At Thursday's meeting, Laura Winsky, RHA vice president of campus affairs, and a committee of other members listed grievances against the executive board that they had witnessed or heard about.

Minutes of the meeting obtained by the Arizona Daily Wildcat included accusations of inappropriate use of organization funds.

The executive board allegedly spent $1,200 on a new couch for La Paz Residence Hall offices, despite only being approved for a $200 expenditure. Overbudgeting for items such as food for association events - and keeping the leftovers for personal use - was another charge of abuse in the RHA treasury.

In addition, possible tampering with members' e-mail accounts, underage drinking in the dorms, unprofessional behavior while in professional capacity, and sexual activity in the RHA office were mentioned.

Only one of the seven-member executive board is being spared from the accusations - national communications coordinator Cory Shapiro.

At the meeting, Winsky said Shapiro's character "is not in question," according to the minutes.

The committee passed out proposals asking that the current executive board be re-elected by Feb. 10. However, the issue was tabled until this week's meeting.

"The general body members will have to make an important vote on Thursday," Winsky said yesterday. "They understand my convictions, and now it's time to let them decide. Now I just sit and wait."

The accusations were made not as personal attacks, but as a matter of principle, said committee members.

"When individuals are in an environment which is corrupt, all morals and ethics become somewhat blurred," Winsky said at the meeting, according to the minutes. "I realized that I cannot work for an organization that is corrupt ... this organization has potential ... right now, and for the past 10 months, it has not been serving that potential."

Josh Maxwell, Cochise Residence Hall president and a member of the accusing committee, said the charges are for the good of the entire University of Arizona on-campus student community.

"We're looking to take a positive step for the residents that live in the halls at the U of A," Maxwell said. "All of our actions were taken in the residents' best interests - that's our sole reason for doing this."

Speculation of corruption has been "common knowledge," but never publicly stated, said Andy Folkening, RHA recording secretary.

"There have been lots of rumors, but this is the first time it's been brought out at a meeting," he said. "People were, for the most part, extremely surprised."

RHA officials were not available for comment last night.

However, this is not the first time RHA executive board members have been charged with misusing funds. Last January, former president Matthew Meaker was accused of spending $58 from RHA's funds on an unapproved breakfast meeting with other association members, and using official RHA telephones for personal long distance calls.

Meaker admitted to the indiscretions and formally apologized, but was spared in a recall effort spearheaded by four other executive board members. Those members later resigned, saying they could not "in good conscience" work with Meaker.

Hillary Davis can be reached at Hillary.Davis@wildcat.arizona.edu

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