By Bryan K. Alfaro | THE EASTERN ECHO
Added March 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Eastern Michigan University Student Government Speaker of the Senate, Leo Cartier, introduced a resolution to the Senate to impeach Student Body President Matthew Norfleet Jan. 29, and less than a week later Cartier withdrew the resolution.
“After meeting with President Norfleet, we came to an agreement upon which I would withdraw the resolution upon certain actions that he would take,” Cartier said.
When asked to clarify what those actions were, Cartier declined to comment other than saying Norfleet had agreed to a few “concessions.”
Norfleet said he had no idea the impeachment resolution was coming.
“No idea. It was really bizarre,” he said.
Norfleet said his working relationship with Cartier prior to the introduction to the resolution was pretty good.
“Cartier and I have a really great working relationship in both of our different aspects of Student Government,” Norfleet said.
As per the requirements of the EMU Student Body Constitution, Cartier had a hearing prior to the introduction of the impeachment resolution with Student Government Judicial Sergeant Alex Bibeau, who deemed there was reason enough to call for an impeachment hearing.
Cartier then introduced the resolution during the Jan. 29 Student Senate’s normal meeting, at which time the Senate opted to move the discussion into executive session which requires all non-voting members to leave the room, according to Robert’s Rules of Order (a book on rules of order commonly adopted for use by deliberative assemblies).
Cartier’s resolution, which was supported by Senator Matthew Ventura, said Norfleet had:
• Misled the Senate in advising financial matters
• Failed to uphold the duties of his office
• Failed to uphold the Oath of Office and Code of Conduct
• Failed to uphold the Eastern Michigan University Creed
• Failed to uphold the principles of professionalism, fairness and leadership
After a three-hour discussion, a vote to table the issue indefinitely failed to pass, but a vote to return to the resolution at a later date was passed. If the resolution had been passed, which requires an absolute two-thirds vote of the Student Senate according to the EMU Student Body Constitution, Norfleet would have been removed from office immediately.
But the resolution itself never came to a vote. In a Feb. 3 statement, Student Government announced after further investigation and discussion between Norfleet and Cartier the resolution was withdrawn by Cartier.
And according to Robert’s Rules of Order, “Business conducted in an executive session is confidential … members are not to divulge proceedings of an executive session and can be punished under a disciplinary provision if they violate the secrecy,” so specific details on the resolution and about the executive session are scarce.
Norfleet said the Student Government bylaws list vague reasons for impeachment (such as “unprofessional execution of the will of the student body”) to allow for some interpretation, so as to encompass unforeseen situations or circumstances.
“I do agree that the resolution is really vague, and again, after our findings we found a lot of the claims for this to be baseless and unsubstantiated,” Norfleet said.
Cartier said the resolution was a result of issues that were brought to him by members of Student Government (including Ventura), who had expressed interest or procedural information about potentially impeaching Norfleet.
Norfleet said he and Ventura got along fine at work.
“Up until that point, I wouldn’t have characterized our relationship to be anything other than a normal working relationship. We don’t work closely with each other on our day to day, but I had up until that point no idea it was coming,” Norfleet said.
EMU Assistant Vice President of Student Life Glenna Miller, who has been the acting university advisor for Student Government since about 2006 or 2007, said she emailed Cartier the day after the impeachment hearing happened asking to meet with him.
“My hope was that we could make sure that they were following the Constitution and the bylaws; that I could provide any assistance if they need anything like that,” Miller said. “My goal in meeting with Leo [Cartier] was to talk about due process, fairness, investigations—you know, those kinds of things. The kinds of things I think that any advisor would try and focus upon and that’s what we talked about.”
When asked whether or not she felt the Constitution and bylaws were being adhered to during the impeachment, Miller declined to comment.
“Pretty much I’m not going to disclose anything else to you,” she said. “I felt like I was appropriately used as the advisor and felt like I was advising them. I felt like the relationship was appropriate.”
Miller also said he did not feel comfortable providing more details about the specifics of the vague wording of the charges against Norfleet in the impeachment resolution.
According to the Jan. 29 Student Government meeting minutes, Cartier also met with the EMU Ombudsman Gregory Peoples, whose duty it is to help students resolve concerns, problems or conflicts with regards to university policies, procedures and decisions, but neither would comment on their conversation.
“The Ombudsman’s Office is a confidential service that is provided to all students, faculty and staff at Eastern Michigan University,” Peoples said. “Information shared and discussed with me remains confidential unless given permission to disclose such information by the specific individual. Therefore I can neither confirm or deny meeting with Mr. Cartier and certainly had I met with him not be in a position to discuss the contents of said meeting.”
Cartier said one reason behind the impeachment resolution was that during the Dec. 4, 2012 Student Government meeting Norfleet misled the Senate about financial matters.
“President Norfleet, in my opinion and in the opinion of probably the majority of the senators, was misleading and lied to the Senate,” he said.
Cartier said Norfleet told the Senate that Student Government owed Campus Life $4,000 for a homecoming event, which Cartier said was not true.
However, Student Government Director of Communications Benjamin Elmgren said there was a simple misunderstanding due to Norfleet’s choice in words, as the $4,000 had indeed been allocated to Campus Life but was not technically “owed” to them.
“The official position of Student Government is that this is a question of semantics and whether or not the right choice of words was made,” Elmgren said. “We’re happy to take responsibility, and I believe that if you speak with Matthew [Norfleet] individually he will take some personal responsibility for not making the right choice in words when presenting this information. But still, the fact remains that this is money that was allocated for this purpose.”
Elmgren said there were four witnesses called to testify during the impeachment hearing, but would only name Norfleet as one of the four witnesses—again citing the privacy afforded to closed executive sessions. Cartier, however, confirmed the other three witnesses were members of student government.
“We believed that speaking to fairness and equity that it was necessary for [Norfleet] to be able to respond to any statements that were being made that would oppose his presidency or bring up charges,” Elmgren said.
Norfleet said his focus has been to continue moving forward with business as usual.
“My focus, for whatever it may be worth, was always, ‘How are we going to move past this?’ And realizing my own personal view that I haven’t done anything impeachable and I’m glad that the speaker as well as the senator were able to eventually see that as well,” Norfleet said.
Elmgren said in a letter to The Eastern Echo that he reaffirms Student Government’s “commitment to transparency, decency and adherence to the strictest of ethical standards in the way that we operate within our organization. Further, I will be happy to continue [to] provide you with additional information as permitted under our rules and applicable policies.”
Norfleet said he thinks Student Government will be able to get past this and still be effective.
“Our focus for the last couple of weeks and moving forward will be to carry on under one banner,” Norfleet said.
Cartier said his relationship with Norfleet, both before the introduction of the impeachment resolution and after its withdrawal, is good.
“I obviously have to get along with him until the end of the year,” Cartier said. “But I think our relationship is really good. We personally get along. The office atmosphere has been pretty good, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Cartier also said he’s not concerned about any kind of backlash from the resolution.
“People can be frustrated with me—I understand that—some of the people who supported President Norfleet, but I’m not worried about any backlash as I was speaking with the majority of Student Government officials,” Cartier said.