by Alison Bergblom Johnson
The Inspector General (IG) committee recommended Thursday that Student Senate Vice President Corinne Salone be removed from either the office of vice president or the position of Student Life Budget Committee (SLBC) vice chair–or both– if she does not resign.
The IG committee made its complaint against Salone and others available in the Senate office for review. There were five copies of the complaint available in the Senate office. All have various corrections in different hands. According to Darren Zabinski, IG committee chair, the only official correction clarifies a date.
The complaint relates to Marc Cameron, secretary of communications and public relations, sitting in the SLBC meeting on Feb. 11 at Salone’s request, in place of another member to make sure there were enough voting members present. This is the second time during Salone’s term that her removal from the vice presidency has been sought.
Cameron sent an email to student clubs outlining Salone’s alleged pattern of negative behavior. All alleged behavior referenced by Cameron regards interpersonal behavior save a claim she didn’t send certain emails.
Zabinski posted a message on the white board of the Senate office requesting no interviews with or statements to City College News (CCN). The message has been up since at least Mar. 1.
President Robert Ellis of the Student Senate said that any reporting on this matter most likely would trigger an audit that will freeze all student life funding for two years.
In the IG report, the specific claim against Salone is “failure to enforce current SLBC By-laws and Student Senate Policy” and “conduct unbecoming of a vice president.” The IG report also lists Secretary of Finance and SLBC Chair Shanese Watts and Cameron with a “failure to be proficient in current SLBC By-laws and Student Senate Policy.”
The IG report said Watts and Cameron “should receive a Letter of Counseling, which will include a counseling session with the Student Senate President, and a review of current Student Senate Policy and SLBC By-laws.” SLBC member Michael Bethke is listed in the complaint as “voting as a conflict of interest on an SLBC Committee vote.” The consequences of the complaint for Bethke is ineligibility to vote for one SLBC committee meeting. Bethke could not be reached for comment.
The consequences laid out in the complaint would depend on a vote by the general assembly of the Student Senate, presumably on March 16, during the first meeting after break.
According to the complaint, Watts canceled an SLBC meeting that was to be held on Thursday, Feb. 11, due to a family emergency. Salone reinstated the meeting after discussion with Watts and Tara Martinez, director of Student Life, after realizing that the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Bike Collective had requests for funding and were waiting for the meeting to start.
In the IG report, Watts referred in a signed statement to Salone’s actions as a potential “power grab.” In the statement, Watts also said she was uncomfortable with the meeting going ahead unless Martinez approved the change. Watts did not comment when reached by CCN.
This SLBC meeting happened Feb. 11; the complaint was filed by Klynt Wilhelmi, who was not then yet a member of the SLBC, on Feb. 17. Wilhelmi’s complaint was not provided with the IG report.
According to both the minutes of the SLBC meeting and a statement by Tara Martinez in the IG report the MSA received $215 for upcoming events, and the Bike Collective received $4,170 for a training in Portland.
The Bike Collective received additional money at the next SLBC meeting on Feb. 18 to accommodate an increase in per person costs and the expense of shipping bikes to use during the training. According to Martinez, Watts, Salone, Bredford, and SLBC member Brandan Cromartie voted at the meeting. Wilhelmi was also present.
The IG report also proposes to amend the SLBC bylaws to “forbid the use of proxies” and to “prevent conflicts of interest on SLBC voting members for funds for their respected [sic] clubs.”
Carlos Espinoza was at the SLBC meeting on Feb. 11 to request funding for the Bike Collective. He said, “I don’t really even understand why this is even such a big deal. I honestly think it’s really petty.”
On Sept 30, 2015, Ellis brought a motion to remove Salone as vice president. That motion was ultimately withdrawn. Around that time Salone provided emails to CCN written to her from Ellis. In an email dated Aug. 27, 2015, Ellis wrote “So this is your last chance. Change your demeanor, change the way you carry yourself with the Cabinet and Senate members.
“If you cannot I will ask for your resignation, if you refuse to tender that resignation I assure you the Cabinet will do it for me.”
On Sept. 30, Ellis made that motion to remove Salone at the General Assembly. Ellis withdrew his motion at the Oct. 14 meeting. Tim Ireland, Jr. and Zabinski, who was then not yet Inspector General as the position did not yet exist, acknowledged leading negotiations between Salone and Ellis that led to Ellis withdrawing the motion. When Zabinski spoke against the motion when it was originally presented on Sept. 30 one of his concerns was that the evidence presented was insufficient for a removal.
Rodney Williams is vice president of Students against Hunger and Homelessness (SAHH) and began having discussions on his own, independent of the IG investigation, with people who were named in the IG complaint or present at the SLBC meeting on Feb. 11. One of the people he talked to was Cameron.
“He gave me an insight that nobody else knows. This is a pattern. This is not the first time our VP has done this. But that she’s done more than that,” said Williams, “And so, like now, I’m talking to a person who’s actually been accused. And I was thinking that we’d [sic] side together. But that’s not the situation. With everybody not knowing anything, about what has led up to this harsh punishment compared to everyone else, I guess this is that time to just say this is why and just explain everything.”
On Thursday, Mar. 3 Cameron sent a 1,000 word email to 31 student clubs. In that email, which was sent from his college employee address, Cameron addresses what he sees as “back story to VP Salone’s pattern of behavior.” His email primarily regards Salone’s behavior at Minnesota State Colleges Student Association (MSCSA) events. He lists multiple specific instances regarding this pattern.
“I have only attended 3 MSCSA events and at every event I was having to apologize on behalf of the MCTC Student Senate,” Cameron wrote, “Her [Salone’s] continued berating of students and conduct unbecoming a student leader, is proof that this pattern of humiliating other student leaders is apparent.”
Cameron says the email was sent from his employee address because that is the only one he uses to not have to manage six email addresses. He also said he does not have a student email address.
Cameron is a non-work study employee of the college, a student and a member of the Senate cabinet. He works for the bookstore, according to Shannon Williams, student activities coordinator in student life. Williams is also the Senate advisor.
Essey Asbu, service operations supervisor in the information technology services department at MCTC confirms that students who are employees of the college can’t have both a student and an employee email address. According to Asbu, the employee address usually takes precedence and is the one kept.
According to Cameron a member of the IG committee had asked for a letter, but then it wasn’t in the packet. He also stated that the IG was unaware he was sending the email to student clubs. Ellis was aware of Cameron’s plan to send the email, according to Cameron. Zabinski had no comment on Cameron’s email and requested anyone with questions contact him directly.
Cameron was concerned that members of the Senate know more about Salone’s past behavior than what’s in the IG report. That report is “the icing on the cake. That’s a string of issues and mistakes and errors made on the part of the vice president that have led up to the current crisis,” Cameron said.
“I want to ensure that the voting members have the facts and they have all the information to make an informed decision, rather than part of the information and then we’re going into this and they’re saying I don’t get this.”
Salone did not respond to requests for comment on any of the allegations.
The bylaws governing the IG committee include a statement that investigations must be only on matters “related to job performance.”
Rumor of an Audit
Robert Ellis, president of Student Senate, told a CCN reporter on Wednesday, Mar. 2 that CCN would very likely lose funding if a news brief on this story went to press in the print edition on Thursday, Mar. 3. Once that story appeared, Ellis again told a CCN reporter that CCN could lose funding if a follow-up article appeared.
Ellis, Cameron and Williams claim an audit that would freeze funding to all student clubs for two years is likely if the information in the complaint is widely known. Cameron referred to MSCSA freezing funds. Ellis referred to MnSCU as the agency that would freeze funding.
They have been unable to point directly to a specific source or statute on this issue.
Martinez says an audit is unlikely and that if it occurred funding would not be frozen. “There’s no evidence that any wrongdoing would raise to the level of anybody else’s scrutiny,” Martinez said, “The two individuals that would be most likely to know, Executive Director of MSCSA Mike Dean and Interim Vice President of Finance and Operations Chris Rau do not anticipate any concerns of this nature.”
An additional high-level administration source hasn’t heard an audit would freeze funding.
Additional reporting by Allyson Phillips