SGA Judicial Council rules against petition

The Student Government Association Judicial Council ruled it would not honor Sen. Michael Tobergta’s petition to recall SGA’s new constitution.

Chief Justice Nathan Hagler announced the decision to the student senate at its Feb. 14 meeting.

“The constitution that was passed by the students and was approved by the Board of Regents is the constitution that is now in effect and will continue to be so,” Hagler said.

It was discovered after the fact that the version of the constitution that was posted online during the Jan. 19 student referendum was not the same version that the student senate approved Nov. 29. At its Jan. 26 meeting, the Board of Regents approved the version that the student body passed.

“We don’t have the power to enjoin the Board of Regents from considering any piece of legislation or any action, and we certainly don’t have the authority to overturn any decision that they make,” Hagler said. “The Board of Regents deemed what they did was appropriate. We don’t have any say in whether it was or not.”

Tobergta submitted an appeal of the ruling to the dean of students office Feb. 15.

“The judicial council, in my opinion, did not live up to their end of the bargain when they got elected to office,” Tobergta said. “They’re supposed to represent the students.”

Hagler said that while the petition was valid, there was nothing judicial council could recall.

“Judicial council is limited in its jurisdiction to only actions of SGA,” Hagler said. “The (new) constitution was never actually approved or voted on by SGA. The only one that was voted on and approved by SGA was the constitution that was never seen by the students, and so therefore that document had no authority.

“There was in sense nothing to recall.”

Tobergta, however, sees the manner of the student referendum as an SGA action.

“Why is it that there was a different document than what SGA approved, and why was it only given one day?” Tobergta asked. “Homecoming (elections) got two days.”

The judicial council was scheduled to announce its ruling at SGA’s Feb. 7 meeting, but Hagler said it was postponed one week because the justices could not come to an agreement at first.

Hagler said he consulted with NKU Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Sara Sidebottom on the petition.

“I just ran by my idea for what the argument should be because it’s always a good idea to get a professional legal scholar’s opinion,” Hagler said. “It wasn’t anything official with regards to judicial council.”

Tobergta argued in his appeal that Hagler’s contact with Sidebottom is reason for the judicial council’s decision to be null and void.

“I find that to be a conflict of interest because the administration wanted this constitution to get through, and (Sidebottom) represents the university,” Tobergta said. “She does not necessarily represent the interests of the student body – that’s what Student Government and judicial council were supposed to do.”

According to the constitution, Dean of Students Kent Kelso will have final determination on the matter.

“If the dean decides to uphold the judicial council’s ruling, I’m still going to make a stink about it because I know a lot of students are upset about this,” Tobergta said.

“Everybody likes to say, ‘Student Government is a joke. What power do they have?’ Well, we had a little bit of power and there was a process working up to gaining more so that way we could work for the students, but that’s now been struck down and there’s probably no way of us getting that to happen unless by some miracle we have a whole new Board of Regents and administration appointed.”

SGA President Andy Hixson created an ad hoc legislative review committee Jan. 31 to investigate how a different version of the constitution from what the student senate voted on appeared on its Web site during the student referendum. The committee was originally going to report its findings at the Feb. 14 meeting, but Hixson said he pushed back the deadline to Feb. 21 so the committee could have enough time to word its results correctly and lay out a policy for how to keep this problem from ever happening again.

“They needed another week to be thorough,” Hixson said. “They wanted to make sure it didn’t have any leaks.”