Executive board members of the Student Government Association were accused of holding personal grudges against former SGA Chief Justice Mike Tobergta at SGA’s Jan. 30 meeting. Tobergta made the accusation and was vocally supported by Senator Paul Myers.
Brett Hardebeck was elected as chief justice to replace Tobergta in a 9 to 1 vote by SGA senators. There were 6 abstentions.
Tobergta had been holding the position of chief justice on in interim basis since last year. During the fall semester there were only two justices and the executive board announced that they wanted to postpone selecting an official chief justice until there were more justices to choose from.
“When they decided to wait until later, I took it as their way of saying, ‘We’re not comfortable with you,'” Tobergta said.
“I take this very personal,” Tobergta said after the vote. “I think the executive board just wanted to silence me.”
“I have no problem with (Hardebeck),” Myers said. “I just don’t see the need to replace (Tobergta.)”
In order for a Hardebeck to be appointed chief justice like the executive board recomended, the judicial council and the senate had to approve him. Tobergta said the judicial council was in a deadlock over the issue before he reluctantly voted for Hardebeck himself.
“My decision in this matter was made with the students in mind as opposed to personal ambition,” Tobergta said in a statement before the senators voted. “My personal opinion on the situation is that it smacks of cronyism.”
Before the vote on the need to replace Tobertga, President Jennifer Perry said, “(The executive board) was on a good comfort level with (Hardebeck). We just felt he was the better choice.”
Perry denied that she held any personal dislike for Tobergta.
Tobergta said he’s used to being the subject of controversy. “For the past two years I’ve been very adamant about how SGA should be run,” Tobergta said. “I wanted to clean up house and get rid of people who weren’t doing their job.”
Tobergta said his initial impression of the SGA was that it was a “social club of irresponsible lackies.”
In the past, he has been the center of controversy after he questioned the SGA constitution and suggested there might be grounds for impeaching some SGA members, including Perry.
“When I start looking for answers, people get scared,” Tobergta said.
Tobergta was questioned after he was part of a committee that legislated the SGA constitution and then did not vote for the constitution to be made official.
“I was simply one member of that committee,” Tobergta said in defense. “The only reason I refused to vote for it was because there were times when I didn’t agree with certain wordings that I felt gave the administration too much power over students. I was fine with it otherwise.”
Tobergta said he suggested that some SGA members be impeached because they missed a significant number of meetings.
He looked into impeaching Perry because she had missed three meetings. However, Tobergta said he stopped pursuing Perry’s impeachment when he found out her absences were excused.
“I think (Perry) holds a little bit of a grudge against me,” Tobergta said. He cited an incident during SGA elections when he pointed out that presidential candidate Perry and executive vice president candidate Sheena Dunn had failed to get enough signatures to put them on the ballot. They then had to be elected as write-in candidates.
Perry said past incidents have built up some distrust for Tobergta. “I honestly think he is a great guy,” Perry said.
New Chief Justice Hardebeck said he wanted to assure SGA members that he was not a player in any kind of ‘cronyism.’
“I just try to play a neutral role as much as possible,” Hardebeck said.
Despite the controversy over the new chief justice, nine senators have been approved since the SGA began more aggressive measures to recruit earlier this semester.
Perry said that five students have applied for the two executive board vacancies and are being interviewed this week. SGA is hoping to recommend two executive board members at the Feb. 5 meeting. If all recommendations are approved, the only SGA vacancy will be a judicial council seat.