Kotoni ‘removed’ as senate vice president

Then-senate vice president Tau Kotoni speaks at the senate meeting on Sept. 22. (Photo by Caleb Williams/City College News)

The student senate executive board voted to remove Tau Kotoni as senate vice president in a 2–1 vote during a meeting Sept. 23, in what interim senate president Brad Conley called a “necessary” action.

Justine Murphy, director of health and wellness, and Abby Rouster, directory of legislative affairs, voted for Kotoni’s removal, while Kotoni voted against his removal, Rouster said.

The meeting was also attended by senate adviser Ryan Schwingler and Dean of Students Laura Fedock.

The other member of the executive board, Conley, could not vote due to senate by-laws, which state the president cannot “… vote at senate and executive committee meetings, except in the event of a tied vote.”

However, Conley did act as president by vetoing the previous day’s senate action to create a committee.

“Per the by-laws, the decision to override the committee formed by the Senate on [Sept. 22], which was found to be out of order by a 2-1 decision on [Sept. 23] (as Chair I did not vote), was communicated to all members (of whom we had addresses), the originator of the motion (who was part of the 2-1 decision), and the adviser by email on [Sept. 24] — well within the 6 day limit of notification,” Conley said in an email.

The Sept. 24 email — which was sent to at least 112 senators and organizations — clarifies the executive board’s action as rescinding the election of Kotoni to the position of vice president, an action availble through Robert’s Rules of Order, which the senate uses to run meetings.

“The senate executive board does not hold the authority to remove an executive officer from their position,” adviser Schwingler said in an email.

The vote came a day after a heated senate meeting where both Conley and Kotoni openly disagreed on Kotoni’s actions during the summer session.

The debate centered around whether Kotoni inappropriately used the title of senate president after then-president-elect Kerrick Sarbacker left school.

A matter of semantics

Central to the controversy is Kotoni’s use of the term president in emails and in coversations to college officials, including Laura Fedock, dean of student affairs, according to Conley.

Conley says Kotoni began using the title of president — inaccurately, Conley says — as soon as July 1.
A Facebook post by Kotoni on July 20 said that he was in Los Angeles representing MCTC as “Senate President.”

Kotoni admits he did use the term president in emails, but he takes issue with the fact that he never used the word “interim.”

“I never had the title of interim president,” Kotoni said at the Sept. 22 senate meeting.

That doesn’t matter, says Conley. He believes that there is no distinction between the two terms.

He says that Kotoni misrepresented himself to both students and faculty, calling the issue one of honesty.

Kotoni disagrees, saying that the use of senate president “outlined the role [he] played.”

“The role I played was student senate president … from July 1 to Aug. 23,” Kotoni said.

“An email signature should not be the first [item on the agenda],” Kotoni said. “It should be last.”

Allegations of poor performance

Brad Conley also alleges that Kotoni did not fulfill the the roles of senate vice president between July 1 and his removal on Sept. 23.

According to Conley, Kotoni organized a single executive board meeting over the summer break, instead of the several Conley believes should have been organized.

Conley also says Kotoni did not properly fulfill his role as head liason to campus organizations, only meeting with some of the clubs once school started.

Kotoni refutes that claim.

“I personally met with all the club leaders,” Kotoni said.

As for the allegations of not fulfilling his role as vice president, Kotoni says he did the best he could.

“I did all I could,” Kotoni said. “I’m a full-time student.”

New VP appointed

At the same meeting on Sept. 23, the members (with Conley not participating) voted to appoint Ugasso Sheik-Abdi to the role of the senate’s interim vice president, until an election is held after the required six-week period, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 27, according to Conley.

Sheik-Abdi, who also serves as president of Wellness Advocates for You (WAY), was chosen in part because Conley trusts her.

“I’ve known her for the past year,” Conley said. “Trust is not an issue.”

Conley could not immediately be reached about his email comments regarding the “out of order” senate committee.