By Allie Smyth
An otherwise innocuous question sparked a debate at the April 2 Students’ Legislative Council meeting that brought the membership of Students’ Union Operations and Finance Commissioner Matt Stambaugh on SLC in question.
Operations and Finance Commissioner Mark Counsell asked Vice-President Op-Fi Natasha Dhillon about Stambaugh’s attendance for the semester.
"This is the fourth meeting Mr. Stambaugh has missed," confirmed Dhillon. "If the SU determines the absences arose from a genuine error in judgment [the official] would not be disqualified."
Once an elected representative reaches four unexcused absences in one semester they may be required to resign their position by SLC if the members determine such action is appropriate.
Stambaugh opted to use two wellness days during the semester to finish academic projects, one of which was for the April 2 meeting. He was also forced to leave the March 14 emergency SLC meeting early due to a class conflict and was hence counted as absent. His absence from the April 2 meeting brought the total absences to four.
He emphasized that while these absences are debatable, they were not due to any lack of commitment on his part.
"I have fulfilled my duties as an SU commissioner and my duties to the students to the fullest extent possible," he said. "I have devoted a lot of my time during the past month to next year’s SLC to correct the inefficiencies that have manifested through this year. However, I have not been delinquent in my duties as an operations and finance commissioner."
SU VP External Oliver Bladek agreed with Stambaugh’s statements but pointed out a need for consistency in enforcing SU bylaws.
"By no means do I want to disqualify Matt," stressed Bladek. "But he made a mistake, he missed four meetings and you need to set consequences for breaking the rules. If we’re not going to hold people to the rules, what’s the point in having them?"
Stambaugh arrived at the April 2 meeting late and addressed the council to explain his understanding of the issue. Discussion focused primarily on Stambaugh’s absence from the Jan. 15 SLC meeting, incurred while he met with Finance Minister Paul Martin in Edmonton. Academic Commissioner Duncan Wojtaszek and Bladek, who also met with Minister Martin, asserted that Stambaugh did not attend as an SU official and so could not be excused from the Jan. 15 SLC meeting.
"Mr. Stambaugh did not apply for SU travel and conference funding to attend the meeting with Minister Martin," said Bladek during the meeting. "He did not receive an invitation to attend the meeting in his capacity as an elected official and he did not ask for an excused absence motion from the January 15 meeting."
"I find it insulting that Mr. Bladek would assert he was on official SU business while I, a commissioner, was not," said Stambaugh after the meeting. "I went to Edmonton thinking I was representing the SU."
No resolution was reached in the matter as events commissioner Ian Thorner left the meeting just after midnight, breaking quorum and bringing the debate to an abrupt end. The question will be re-addressed at the April 9 meeting.