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Impeachment hearing delayed

By Lisa Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
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Charges not filed in time; senators will re-file in spring

Impeachment charges against Student Government President Cade Bernsen have been delayed indefinitely, forcing senators to wait until next semester for the hearing to be rescheduled, officials said.

The impeachment hearing that was scheduled for tonight's ASUA Senate meeting was postponed yesterday because of time regulations in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona constitution and Supreme Court Rules of Procedure, according to an official ASUA statement.

The constitution, Article VI, Section V, requires any impeached person to be tried within two weeks of charges being filed. Rules of procedure also prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing cases within three weeks prior to the first day of Law School finals, which began Dec. 5, according to the statement.

The Supreme Court comprises five students from the James E. Rogers College of Law who are appointed by Bernsen.

The senate plans to re-file sexual harassment charges against Bernsen sometime next semester, said Sen. Matthew Boepple.

If senators wanted to hold an impeachment hearing this semester, they would have needed to file charges three weeks ago, said Jim Drnek, ASUA adviser.

Drnek, associate dean of students, first spoke with UA attorneys about the regulations and then notified Bernsen and the senators that an impeachment hearing cannot be held until January.

Bernsen, a political science senior, is the first president in ASUA history to have impeachment charges filed against him, said Paul Allvin, associate vice president for communications.

Because the student government is a department of the university, the UA can be liable for how ASUA handles these types of procedures, Allvin said.

"(The senators) should learn their own rules," Allvin said. "It's in the ASUA constitution, it's all self-evident. If they read it they'd know right away they had a deadline."

While the senate did review the constitution, it misinterpreted the time frames involved and originally thought it could file the charges before the deadline, said Boepple, a political science sophomore.

Now that senators must wait to reschedule a hearing, Boepple said he believes the setback will make the process harder for all parties involved.

"We would have preferred to hear the allegations this semester and to have had a continuous discussion," Boepple said. "The winter break prevents that from happening."

Though Boepple said he wants to address the charges in a speedy manner, he also understands the need to delay the hearing.

"We want to handle this the right way," Boepple said.

One of the two women who filed sexual harassment complaints against Bernsen said the delayed hearing gives her time to go home, relax and focus. The Arizona Daily Wildcat is not identifying either woman because of the nature of the complaint.

"When all is said and done, I don't think it's going to change any of the results," said the elected official.

Bernsen would not comment.

The senate has not ruled out filing additional charges against Bernsen for his absence at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting Thursday and Friday.

Attending the regents meeting falls under the powers and duties of the president outlined by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona constitution.

Violation of these duties is grounds for impeachment, according to the ASUA constitution.

Drnek said he understood why Bernsen wouldn't show up to the meeting, citing the accusations that were made against him earlier that week.

A replacement delegate was not made in Bernsen's absence because Drnek said he felt the four Arizona Students' Association delegates who were in attendance adequately represented UA students.

While Boepple said he could understand both sides of Bernsen not attending the meetings, he felt a representative should have been appointed to go in Bernsen's place.

- Aaron Mackey contributed to this report.

Records request by Wildcat denied

Requests made by the Arizona Daily Wildcat to obtain e-mail correspondence between Student Government President Cade Bernsen and former Elections Commissioner Tyler Carrell were denied yesterday.

Paul Allvin, associate vice president for communications, said the request couldn't be granted because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"The university's interest in this is to ensure privacy laws aren't violated," Allvin said.

FERPA regulations are meant to provide for the privacy of student education records, Allvin said, and have determined by law that education records cannot be released to third parties without the student's written consent.

Before any document is made available to the public, Allvin said he must first consider two things: whether it is a record that contains information directly related to the student, and if the record is maintained by an educational agency.

Because the e-mails fall under this definition as education records, the correspondence cannot be released unless Bernsen and Carrell give their written consent, Allvin said.

"We have to follow federal law," Allvin said. "If (the record) meets this definition, we don't get to pick and choose a side."

It also means that anything that happens within the Associated Students of the University of Arizona is not a public record unless it was discussed in an open meeting, despite Bernsen being an elected official, Allvin said.

"It's a student activity," Allvin said. "They represent students but they don't govern anything."

Aaron Mackey, Wildcat editor in chief, said the newspaper has never had a problem receiving these types of records before and the newspaper will be pursuing its legal options.

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