The Concordia Student Union council has filed an official complaint with the judicial board regarding the legitimacy of the process by which chief electoral officer Bram Goldstein was hired last May.
As a result of council’s motion passed at last Wednesday’s meeting, byelections have been pushed back by one week and will now be held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. A tentative hiring process has been reopened on the off chance that the JB’s decision leaves the CSU without a CEO just weeks before polling booths open.
“I feel like I was totally sandbagged,” said current CEO Bram Goldstein at the council meeting. He said he was only made aware that his position was being questioned after he was called into a separate meeting at 5 p.m. that same day. Goldstein’s requests to remain in the room during council’s deliberations were denied.
Councillors discussed the matter in closed session for well over an hour, occasionally leaving the room for cigarettes and bathroom breaks. The motion passed with opposition by three council members and an official complaint was sent to the JB via email by VP advocacy and outreach Morgan Pudwell the following day.
At their meeting on Friday morning, the board decided to change the format of their Nov. 1 meeting to a hearing, a decision which JB chair Cassie Smith said was made “to allow Mr. Goldstein an opportunity to speak, since one of the remedies requested in the complaint is his dismissal.” In the event that the board rules to fire Goldstein, bylaws require that the CEO be given an “opportunity to be heard” before being dismissed.
Addressing council immediately after the motion had passed, Goldstein expressed his frustrations with the fact that he is now required to reorganize the elections for the new date while his position as CEO remains uncertain.
“If you guys want to reopen the hiring process and hire someone else who’s going to put together a shoddy election in three weeks, good luck with that,” he said.
Student union president Lex Gill stressed in an interview that the CSU’s complaint lies not with Goldstein himself, but with the procedures by which the previous CSU council hired him.
“We know that there were seven applicants for the position and only three of them showed up for interviews,” said Gill, finding it “suspicious” that there were only records of two of those candidates getting emails asking them to come to council for interviews.
This, coupled with a lack of minutes or records of an appointments committee meeting, a mandatory part of the hiring process which never took place, and uncertainties as to whether or not former CEO Oliver Cohen had officially resigned at the time of Goldstein’s hiring, was why the council decided to bring the matter to the JB. Cohen could not be reached for comment by press time.
Gill explained that she and fellow executive Morgan Pudwell had received permission from council while in closed session at their last meeting to look further into the issue. She said they didn’t want people contesting the election results, as any suspicions regarding the validity of the CEO could result in the election being deemed invalid.
“If anybody at the CSU is going to get hired with integrity and with an accountable system and with a clear transparent process by which they were hired, you hope to God it’s the chief electoral officer,” said Gill.
Last year’s CSU council is also inextricably involved in the controversy. Former 2010-2011 CSU president Heather Lucas defended the decision to hire Goldstein in an email to the JB which heavily criticized Gill for, as she later explained in an interview, “disregarding the will of last year’s council’s decision to democratically appoint Bram.”
“It is saddening that Ms. Gill would stoop so low into petty politics,” Lucas wrote in her letter, referring to the council’s decision to bring the issue to the JB as “part of a strategic agenda that is being pushed to unjustly fire Mr. Goldstein on alleged technicalities.”
The letter itself was accompanied by two screenshots of emails exchanged between Lucas and the appointments committee, in which she decides to bypass holding a meeting due to a lack of availability from committee members and instead asks each person to suggest their top three candidates for the CEO position via email.
Gill, as a member of the previous CSU council, voted against hiring Goldstein as CEO along with fellow councillor Melanie Hotchkiss. According to Gill, both were unimpressed with the three candidates that were ultimately interviewed by council, and felt that the entire process was being rushed. She says that Lucas’ email serves as further proof that hiring procedures were not followed.
“She admits that an appointments committee meeting never took place, which is exactly the issue that was brought up in our contestation,” said Gill, also stating that Lucas “irresponsibly” violated the confidentiality of closed session by disclosing in her email that Gill voted against Goldstein.
“I think what Heather’s trying to do is turn this into some political issue, when really what it is is procedural,” Gill said in response to Lucas’ allegations. “It’s really easy to paint a conspiracy when the fact is it’s her own negligence, if anything, that’s created this problem.”
Former CSU councillor Tomer Shavit will act as defense for the CSU council of 2010-2011 at tonight’s hearing.
JB member Nadim Kobeissi has requested not to be involved in the proceedings as he was one of the seven candidates who had applied for the position of CEO in May.
The JB hearing takes place on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the CSU conference room.