Judicial Review Board official explains Evangelista’s conviction
Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor
The Student Association’s Judicial Review Board delayed its decision on an investigation into SA President Eric Evangelista three times because of scheduling conflicts, among other things.
Matthew VanDemark, the JRB’s chairman, said JRB members had to juggle their time spent on the investigation with academic schedules and work. He also wanted to “make sure everything that had to be presented in (the JRB’s) decision was presented,” VanDemark said in an interview on Friday.
“I apologize the results weren’t sent out sooner, but I wanted to be exceedingly thorough, especially since we are students and we tend to forget this or that,” he said.
The JRB opened an investigation into Evangelista on Jan. 26 after VanDemark said several members of both the SA assembly and cabinet voiced concern that Evangelista had nominated Nicole Sherwood, a senior public relations major, for an SA public relations co-chair position without opening up applications for the position via email to the entire student body.
The JRB delayed its decision for nearly three weeks, but eventually announced on Feb. 14 it had found Evangelista guilty of violating two sets of SA bylaws.
While apologizing for the delay, VanDemark also defended the JRB’s response. He said the JRB took a “practical” amount of time to deliver the verdict. VanDemark added that the decision was not announced during SA’s meeting on Feb. 13 because Evangelista first wanted to inform SU administrators personally about the results of the investigation.
In a report released publicly Tuesday, the JRB detailed Evangelista’s violations and several sanctions they dealt him.
The board found Evangelista guilty of lying to university administrators. According to the report, Evangelista told SU officials Sherwood had been confirmed as a public relations co-chair when she hadn’t been. VanDemark declined to say who those officials were.
The JRB also held Evangelista liable for revealing the JRB’s investigation to the public, a charge stemming from when he mistakenly sent an email about the investigation to the campus community.
The sanctions curtail Evangelista’s power as SA president for the rest of the semester. He now needs Vice President Joyce LaLonde and Chief of Staff Alec Williams with him whenever he meets with university officials, apart from meetings he has with SU Chancellor Kent Syverud’s leadership team and the Board of Trustees.
Additionally, Evangelista has to consult with LaLonde and several other cabinet members to confirm cabinet positions and now needs written permission, with a two-thirds vote of approval from the cabinet, before sending campus-wide emails.
On Feb. 15, however, a day after the JRB’s report was released to the public, Evangelista sent an email to the SU community using the campus-wide listserv. The email contained different updates on SA initiatives and announced the opening of applications for SA’s elections this semester.
VanDemark said Evangelista did not receive a two-thirds vote from the cabinet to send that email. But that was only because SA is still adapting to the new sanctions, he said, so the JRB granted an exception. VanDemark said despite Evangelista not having a two-thirds vote to send that email, the JRB did have some form of documentation indicating what the SA President would say in the email.
“It’s a new process for everybody … and we didn’t have time to fully explain this to everybody since (the report) was just sent out Monday into Tuesday morning,” he said.
In the future, VanDemark said there will be no exceptions.
If Evangelista violates the JRB sanctions, impeachment proceedings will not be held. Instead, VanDemark said the SA President will be immediately expelled from the student government. The sanctions will continue throughout the remainder of Evangelista’s time as president, he added.
Evangelista has until Feb. 22 at 5 p.m. to appeal the JRB’s decision. As of Sunday at 10 a.m., Evangelista had not filed an appeal. VanDemark said on Friday he did not know whether the SA President would do so.
Evangelista declined to comment on this story, referring media inquiries to Sherwood, who was confirmed in her nomination as a public relations co-chair during an assembly meeting held Wednesday.
Originally, a vote on the confirmation of the public relations co-chair position and a community engagement co-chair position was scheduled to take place Feb. 13, but after SA failed to meet quorum, the votes were tabled until SA’s Feb. 20 meeting. But, VanDemark said, a meeting was held instead on Wednesday for the confirmations because SA needs a PR chair.
“Obviously without a PR chair we can’t regulate this mess, essentially, that happened, that’s kind of … washing away any of the good our association does,” he said, referring to the investigation.
About 10 people testified in the investigation into Evangelista, VanDemark said. He added that only SA members testified against the SA president, not university officials or outside community members.
The JRB chair said the evidence collected during the investigation included emails and testimony provided by individuals that spoke about Evangelista with the JRB. VanDemark said the JRB met multiple times and spoke frequently via Facebook to discuss the investigation.
He also said only JRB members were involved in the investigation and that no members of the SA assembly or cabinet were updated about the investigation as it proceeded.
VanDemark said the JRB chose to impose the sanctions that it did on Evangelista so that SA assembly members would have “more of a say” and “feel more included,” while also giving the appropriate cabinet members a more powerful voice with SA administrative functions.
The sanctions create “more of a support team” to fairly represent SA, VanDemark said.
“We were hoping to remediate any conflicts that may exist temporarily from this case, as well as we wanted to, you know, heal any wounds that might have been caused by the misrepresentation that’s been happening throughout this entire case and investigation,” he said.
Published on February 19, 2017 at 9:03 pm