On the eve of UCF Presidential Election polls opening, SGA Senator Brianna Bailey filed a “Recommendation for Censure” against candidate and current SGA Chief of Staff, Nick Larkins, for not meeting his statutory mandated requirements under “Title IV Chapter 402.4."
The statute says, “the Chief of Staff shall report updates to the senate on executive branch internal operations a minimum of two (2) times a month.”
Sen. Bailey believes that Larkins failed to properly report updates to the senate during the months of February and March because he did not physically attend two senate meetings per month.
While Larkins physically appeared at senate only once during the month of February, he relayed his report to SGA Speaker Crystian Cepeda via email on Feb. 9, therefore fulfilling his duties of updating the senate on executive branch internal operations a minimum of two times a month, according to Larkins.
Larkins has yet to attend a March senate meeting. However, he sent a report to Speaker Cepeda on March 9 to read to senate, specifying his absence was due to celebrating his mother’s birthday. Larkins said he plans on attending the senate meeting on March 30.
“There’s an issue with the definition of report. This censure is bringing up that discrepancy. Basically, the word ‘report’, to I think myself and possibly other senators, means to come in and talk to us. That’s the time they can speak and we can ask questions," Bailey said. "He’s required to report on all internal operations. As far as I’m concerned, he hasn’t fulfilled his duties."
Bailey and Cepeda said that senate meetings provide senators the opportunity to ask members of the executive branch important questions that, otherwise, they may not have the chance to.
“That [chief of staff] position is paid. If you’re not showing up to a public meeting and you’re not answering questions, those student dollars go to waste because you’re not there and you’re not answering to what you’re doing," Cepeda said. "[The] cabinet is always making purchases to do events. As a student, I’d like to see exactly what [the] cabinet is doing.”
Ultimately though, Cepeda said he believes the decision on whether “reporting” to senate meetings means physically attending should be left to the SGA Attorney General, who is expected to release an official opinion on the matter.
“[The “Recommendation of Censure”] is going to be ruled invalid and this is going to disappear. [“Title IV Chapter 402.4”] was written incorrectly. Nowhere does it say ‘attend’," Larkins said. "I’m going to assume that the Attorney General writes an opinion that says ‘report to’ does not mean physically attend. Tomorrow is not a guilty, not guilty verdict. Tomorrow determines whether the censure is even valid or not."
Regardless of the Attorney General’s decision, election opponents Josh Bolona and Jad Shalhoub said Bailey brought up concerns that need to be addressed.
“Whether or not the wording signifies a violation, I think it’s worrisome that the chief of staff is having trouble communicating with an entire branch of SGA,” Shalhoub said. “That’s a gap we definitely want to bridge.”
Larkins remains confident that he has properly fulfilled his duties as chief of staff.
“It’s a clever political stunt to try and slander the campaign,” Larkins said. “When you actually examine all of it, this is because one senator is wrongly interpreting the word or phrase “report to.”
Though Bailey has endorsed Josh and Jad, she maintains that filing the censure wasn’t meant to influence presidential election results.
“This doesn’t affect [Larkin’s] race in senate. It’s not equivalent to kicking him off the ballot. It’s about his performance of chief of staff duties,” Bailey said. “It’s about keeping him accountable as a student government agent.”
Election voting polls close March 29 at 5 p.m.
Students can vote online at my.ucf.edu, outside the Student Union Tuesday and Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as well as the gym Tuesday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.