Candidates face charges

Chief Justice Dave Caddell announced the impeachment of Vice President for Public Relations Andy Hixson at the April 5 Student Government Association meeting. On the same day, Sen. Jeff Iker, Hixson’s running mate, was removed from the Senate on grounds that he violated the SGA attendance policy.

Vice President for Administrative Affairs Joe Myers drafted a petition to impeach Hixson and obtained signatures from two-thirds of the Senate last week. Myers presented it, along with a list of grounds for Hixson’s impeachment, to Judicial Council April 1. The petition and list constituted immediate impeachment according to the SGA constitution. Hixson was impeached and may be removed from office, pending a hearing with the Judicial Council. According to Caddell, Hixson’s impeachment hearing has tentatively been scheduled for April 9 at 3 p.m.

When Caddell announced Hixson’s impeachment, Iker stood up, sarcastically thanked the senators who signed the petition, and then left the meeting. This resulted in his third absence this semester, which constituted grounds for his immediate removal from SGA, according to the SGA constitution. Iker received an e-mail on April 5, notifying him of his removal.

“They’re just trying to get myself and Andy to a point where we can’t credibly compete in the election,” Iker said.

Hixson is running for president and Iker for executive vice president in next week’s SGA elections. They will compete against Executive Vice President Eric Fegan and Sen. James Pollitt.

Iker had previously been absent from two Senate meetings, and was credited April 5 with a third absence. Iker received credit for half an absence from leaving the meeting early and half an absence by missing his Finance Committee meeting, which was held after the Senate meeting.

Iker plans to appeal his removal, and will go before the ethics committee April 6.

The Ethics Committee, chaired by Myers, initially attempted to impeach Hixson on March 5 by presenting a letter to the Judicial Council. The council ruled March 19 that their process was unconstitutional, however, because the committee did not present a petition signed by two-thirds of the Senate, as called for in the constitution.

“I don’t have anything personal against Andy,” Myers said, “but I felt that it was the right thing to do because he hadn’t been doing his job, and the charges needed to be heard.”

Sen. Joseph P. Mayer III, who serves on the ethics committee, first brought forth charges against Hixson earlier this semester. He said he believes that Hixson has been in dereliction of his duties. Mayer claimed that Hixson has failed to serve his required 10 office hours per week, and has also been absent from every regularly scheduled Executive Board meeting this semester, among other accusations.

Myers said he felt he had an obligation to pursue this issue based on the findings of the committee, and the charges they had voted on unanimously during the first impeachment attempt.

Myers was originally concerned that obtaining a two-thirds signed petition from the Senate would present a challenge. To ease this difficulty, Myers chose to approach senators individually to obtain their signatures. Myers said he was “impressed” with the Senate’s ability to remain impartial when considering the validity of the charges against Hixson.

Iker said it would have been nice to introduce the petition publicly at a Senate meeting, to include the entire Senate in the decision. Myers said he did not approach every senator with the petition, because he said he knew some senators would not sign the petition.

Hixson said that he believes this impeachment stemmed from his stance at the Feb. 9 Senate meeting against SGA’s controversial proposed constitution. He said that many senators have been strong-armed into accepting the new constitution.

“The only difference between me and them is they weren’t able to strong-arm me, so they had to get downright dirty,” Hixson said. “If I went along with them, I guarantee you this wouldn’t have happened.”

Fegan said that there is no “strong-arming” in the Senate, and it is “horrible” that Hixson and Iker are making such claims about the SGA administration.

“[It] makes me think that they’re just trying to take everything away from the issues and make us look like the big, mean guys on SGA,” Fegan said.

According to Fegan, Hixson’s dereliction of duties has been a problem since last semester. Fegan said he kept telling the Executive Board to give Hixson another chance.

“I really thought we could work things out, because to me that’s better conflict resolution,” Fegan said. “But it didn’t happen, and he’s been one hell of a thorn in my ass all year now.”

Fegan said that he was advised by many colleagues to try and stop the impeachment process, because it could leave some students with the wrong impression of SGA. Although Fegan admits the timing may look bad to some, he is confident this is the correct action to take at this point.

“When it comes down to it, SGA should do what’s right,” he said. “We should’ve done this in September.”

Hixson believes this impeachment might actually help his chances in the election.

“I think it’s gonna have a positive effect on my campaign and election,” Hixson said. “The students know what’s going on.”

Myers said that he does not care what effect this has on the election, for either slate.

“What it comes down to for me, is doing what’s right,” Myers said.

By allowing Hixson to stay in office and be paid for his position, Myers said that SGA will not be on the right track for the future.

“I can’t let that go. I can’t allow something like that to happen,” Myers said. “For me, it has nothing to do with any campaign.”

Hixson is still confident that this process is simply a personal attack.

“It is my privilege and honor to be hated and attacked by this administration, because when I look at them, and the way they do things, I’m glad they’re not my buddies,” Hixson said.

Hixson and Iker also claim that the current Senate has been “stacked” due to the appointment of senators, recommended by SGA President Chris Pace, who have replaced other senators removed due to absences. Hixson believes they are simply filling in vacancies with students who will support Fegan and his ticket.

Myers said that if Hixson and Iker truly believed the Senate was being “stacked,” they should have voted against the appointment of said senators.

“I don’t see how you can claim that [the Senate] has been stacked or rigged if you haven’t been voting against these appointments that you think are stacking the Senate,” Myers said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Iker said they realized too late that these newly appointed senators were “brainwashed Fegan/Pollitt supporters.”

“If the Senate really thinks that this isn’t dirty, then God help the student body with these people representing them,” Hixson said.

Fegan said that Hixson and Iker may be “trying to start the storm and ride [the] wave.”

“You’ve got a candidate that’s up for impeachment, and a candidate that’s not eligible,” Fegan said. “‘What are they thinking?’ is what I’m wondering.”

Hixson said that he believes his “nice guy” approach to situations in SGA will pay off in the long run.

“The nice guy always finishes last, but it’s just funny how he always ends up winning in the long run,” Hixson said. “My victory will come on the 14th and 15th.”