Impeachment committee order defeated at Atlanta Senate meeting

Five days before the annual SGA debates at the Atlanta Senate meeting, the senate debated articles of impeachment, campaign manager involvement and the responsibilities of an SGA member.

A special order to create a committee to investigate articles of impeachment against Sen. Takia Tinsley was defeated at the Atlanta senate meeting this past Thursday.

Tinsley is currently a candidate in the race for Atlanta executive vice president.

Speaker Pro Tempore Terry Fye drafted and introduced the order, which included what he considered to be several potential conflicts of interest between Tinsley and presidential candidate Nigel Walton.

Kaelen Thomas, speaker of the Atlanta Senate, missed the beginning of the meeting to attend his own campaign meeting for his presidential candidacy. He then arrived with his campaign manager and assumed the position of the speaker during the discussion of the special order.

“I had a campaign meeting, so I decided to be late for here and let Terry take the reigns … I didn’t think I would be coming back so soon but I heard that the senate might need my presence tonight,” Thomas said.

Fye asked Thomas if he’d like to recuse himself because the discussion included Thomas’ presidential competitor Walton.

Thomas chose to resume his role of speaker. In an interview with The Signal, Thomas said he didn’t recuse himself because Fye wrote the special order and he saw it as a conflict for Fye.

The first conflict of interest in the special order against Tinsley included a violation of Article 5 Section F of the SGA Election Code that states that SGA members can endorse themselves but not each other.

Tinsley, as president of Pi Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Inc., self-reported the fraternity’s endorsement of Walton.

The second one included the assumption that Tinsley would be less likely to receive more points for violations if Walton were to be elected as SGA president due to the endorsement.

Tinsley has 24 points, one point away from termination from the Senate, due to unexcused absences.

The third conflict of interest includes that the endorsement and Tinsley’s role in the fraternity affected Thomas’ chances of receiving an endorsement from the fraternity.

Walton argued that Article 4 Section 2(F) contradicts Article 5 Section F in Tinsley’s case since he is both the leader of an organization and an SGA member.

“Candidates, or others acting on behalf of candidates, may contact the leader of any student organization chartered with the University for the purpose of requesting … to seek its endorsement,” Article 4 Section 2(F) states.

“What if a person is both a leader but also in SGA?” Walton said.

Fye said that regardless of a person being in both organizations, they must still recuse themselves from the process.

The conversation then became about whether Tinsley is an SGA member first or the president of his fraternity first.

“What is the determining factor of what he does first or not?” Walton said.

Fye argued that Tinsley became an SGA senator first when he swore an oath to uphold the bylaws.

“The fact of the matter is, if you are an SGA officer first, you are a member of every other organization second because you serve every student,” Fye said.

Ira Livnat, Thomas’ campaign manager, wanted to contribute to the discussion as well and was added to the speaker’s list by Speaker Thomas.

Livnat asked Tinsely if he recused himself from endorsing Walton, which Tinsely replied that he did.

“Is that enough to dismiss the charge? I’ve also heard a lot of people talk about ‘Is he a senator first or is he part of the fraternity first?’ I think that’s irrelevant. It doesn’t matter which one should come first. It matters that you’re a part of SGA,” Livnat said.

Walton then took the floor, asking Thomas who his campaign manager was. 

“I refuse to answer that question,” Thomas said. 

Walton then turned to Livnat.

“To Mr. Livnat, who are you the campaign manager for?” Walton said.

Livnat then said he believed it was irrelevant who he was, but he then addressed the senate, telling them that he wasn’t coming to the senate as a campaign manager but rather a concerned student.

He followed up saying that if Tinsely was innocent, he would support an investigation to prove his own innocence.

Livnat argued in front of the senate that it doesn’t matter which role comes first for Tinsley, SGA or the fraternity, it just matters that he’s in SGA. But when asked in an interview after the meeting about the possibility of a conflict of interest for himself, Livnat said his roles as both a campaign manager and a concerned student isn’t a problem.

He also said it wasn’t a conflict for him to speak because Thomas and Tinsely are in separate races and that the bill of impeachment only implicated Tinsely, not Walton.

Livnat said that he believed Tinsely was innocent, so that’s why he addressed the senate.

“If my goal was to go up there and reverse that or interfere with that, I would have gone up there and said ‘Impeach him, impeach him. He’s guilty’ … I thought that legislation was premature. And I think that [Tinsely] was innocent. And that’s why I went up there and asked that question,” Livnat said.

Because Livnat was not yielded to by any member of the senate before speaking, Gail Sutton, the Atlanta SGA advisor, said that it was considered a parliamentary error.

The SGA bylaws list the proper rules to conduct a senate meeting. The rules include how to properly allow students to address the senate.

“Anyone who is not a member of the SGA Senate or President’s Cabinet shall only speak during SGA meetings through the process of student forum, or if yielded the floor by a senator or senate chairperson,” Article 8 Section E of the SGA bylaws states.

The senate ultimately ended up voting down the motion, effectively killing the bill. The final count was 4 for, 5 against and 1 abstaining.

Due to debate on the issue running late into the night, and the meeting’s scheduled agenda, other business planned for the meeting was postponed to March 5.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article didn’t include how students are allowed to properly address the senate. The updated version now includes the parliamentary error that took place and Article 8 Section E of the SGA bylaws.

Updated 03/02/2020 5:03 p.m.