Members of Temple Student Government held a preliminary hearing to impeach Elections Commissioner Matthew Diamond on Monday, less than two weeks before the 2018 TSG elections.
The entire Senior Leadership Team decided to impeach Diamond for various alleged constitutional infractions. The impeachment documents were filed under Chief of Staff Rebecca Gonzalez’s name, but the decision was made by all members of the Senior Leadership Team, which is composed of the current student body president, the two vice presidents, the chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and the director of communications.
Diamond is accused of insubordination after he refused to edit the 2017 election code to include changes proposed by the Senior Leadership Team. In November, Diamond attempted to draft a new 2018 elections code, but it was shot down by the leadership team.
The Senior Leadership Team did not comment on the proposed changes it suggested.
The team claimed Diamond could not adequately oversee elections because his new election code was “uneducated,” Gonzalez said.
Diamond also allegedly violated TSG’s media ethics when he posted a copy of the 2017 elections code on Facebook from his personal account, rather than an official TSG account. The elections code is available to the public on TSG’s website.
Diamond declined to comment on his impeachment charges.
Morrease Leftwich, TSG’s auditor general who decides the student government’s impeachment cases, said the accusations were “not grounds for impeachment because they had nothing to do with the constitution.”
“[The Senior Leadership Team] refuses to compromise,” Leftwich added. “The accusations weren’t worth petitioning, and they made it obvious that they just [wanted to impeach him] because they didn’t get what they want.”
But Gonzalez said the Senior Leadership Team’s reasons to file to impeach Diamond are valid.
“I hope there will be another meeting where we are able to make our cases further,” Gonzalez said. “Even if Morrease doesn’t agree with the other [accusations], the media violation should be enough.”
THE PROPOSED CHANGES
The Elections Committee — which includes Diamond and four additional members — attempted to change several aspects of the elections codes to “address ways campaigns could cheat the code,” Diamond said in an interview about TSG’s election process on Saturday.
For elections code changes to be ratified, they must be passed by the Ethics Board, the Steering Committee of Parliament and the Senior Leadership Team.
Per Diamond, the Elections Committee attempted to:
- Eliminate the current point-penalty system, which former campaigns said was confusing, and implement a “three strikes, you’re out” policy for campaign violations
- Restrict campaign endorsements, which limited the award amount — including money, posters and campaign spaces — one party could contribute to a campaign
- Add more spaces for campaigns to post signs and other promotional materials on Main Campus
- Digitize some forms which were previously completed on paper
All of the proposed changes were rejected by the Senior Leadership Team, despite being passed in all of the other branches.
The only change the Elections Committee was able to make — separate from the elections codes changes — was increasing the amount of money that campaigns can spend in elections. The spending cap for Parliament campaigns is now $500, and the cap for executive board campaigns is $1,500. This adds $475 to Parliament campaigns and $500 to Executive Branch campaigns. TSG will refund the campaigns for half of their spending. Candidates and endorsers will be responsible for the other half.
“We wanted to make sure that whoever was getting the most votes wasn’t getting them because they had the most endorsements, but that they were the most qualified,” Diamond added. “We wanted all campaigns and ideas to have a fair shot at winning, even if they didn’t get a lot of exposure.”
During the previous academic year, the Elections Committee was the only branch that had to ratify changes to the elections code proposed by the Elections Committee. This year, the Senior Leadership Team changed this process to include itself and the Steering Committee, Diamond said.
Senior Leadership Team and Vice President of Services Kayla Martin said she was not aware of this change.
She said she believes it is important for the Senior Leadership Team, who have been through the campaign process already, to be involved in creating elections codes.
Martin added that she thought the proposed revisions to the elections code were “way worse than last year.” More specifically, the Senior Leadership Team took issue with the restrictions on campaign endorsements.
“Some of the things that were proposed just made the process very undemocratic,” Martin added. “We decided to go with the same as last year because our elections commissioner wasn’t willing to change it.”
Leftwich said Diamond had made “most of the changes” proposed by the Senior Leadership Team, but not all.
LAST YEAR’S ELECTION
In the 2017 TSG election, Activate TU — which was the ticket composed of Martin, Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes and Vice President of External Affairs Paige Hill — was suspended for more than an hour on the night that polls closed for allegedly violating canvassing rules. The team was accused of spending more time than was allowed promoting its campaign outside the Bell Tower.
Later, the Elections Committee delayed releasing the results of the election to investigate whether Activate TU spent more than the $1,000 limit. The Elections Committee determined the campaign spent about $999 of the $1,000 spending cap. Activate TU won the election by 56 votes.
“It’s interesting that the campaign that benefited from a lot of the issues with the code are the ones saying the commissioner is making mistakes,” Leftwich said.
Former Elections Commissioner and junior biochemistry major Noah Goff said he gave Diamond his “two cents” when alterations were being discussed. After the last election, The Temple News obtained a letter of dissent Goff sent to last year’s TSG administration. He was the only one in the committee to dissent and disagreed with Activate TU’s win.
“I really think it should have been clarified that if a team breaks a rule, especially one as irreversible as campaign spending, those punishments should be very clearly defined,” Goff said. “There should be no ambiguity over whether a team should be elected or whether they should be able to continue after breaking a serious rule.”
Although its allowance is not explicitly stated in the elections code, Goff believes the current administration should not be involved in making decisions for future elections.
“I have some serious concerns about the way this election is being organized and run by this administration,” he added.
The elections code requires a separation between the current administration and campaigns, including restricting the use of the TSG office for campaigning and not allowing current members of TSG to endorse candidates.
Leftwich said he thought this instance was an abuse of power on behalf of the Senior Leadership Team, and it could compromise TSG’s ability to function as a democratic student government.
“One person or group isn’t supposed to have all the authority,” he said. “It should be diffused. That’s why we have this separation of power.”
Despite the setback, Diamond hopes this year’s election will be fair.
“We aren’t going to be able to see the election we wanted to make,” Diamond said. “Having a lesser code is definitely going to impact the elections in some way, but I don’t think that will make it inefficient.”
The 2018 campaigns will be announced on March 20. Campaigning will end on April 3, and students will be able to vote for the new TSG leadership team from April 4 through April 5.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated members of the Senior Leadership Team filed to impeach Matthew Diamond for subordination. The SLT filed to impeach Diamond for insubordination and is corrected to reflect the accurate information. An earlier version of this story stated that the entire SLT filed to impeach Diamond. Although the following sentences clarify that Rebecca Gonzalez is the person who filed the articles of impeachment, the use of the word “filed” has been corrected to “decision” for clarification purposes. A previous version of this story stated the Ethics Board was the only branch to ratify changes to the elections code. The Elections Commission was the only branch last academic year to ratify changes to the elections code and has been updated to reflect the accurate information.