The resignations of both the VP external and the VP finance of the Concordia Student Union are being asked for in a motion set to be presented at the upcoming CSU meeting, this Wednesday. The motion is a result of the mismanagement of CSU funds that led to a reallocation of $19,100 from the CSU’s campaigns budget without the proper authorization from council.
Outgoing CSU executives, VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon and VP finance Keny Toto are being asked to resign due to their roles in the mismanagement of funds allocated for the speaker series, ASFA Talks 2013, presented by the Arts and Science Federation of Associations. The series cost a total of $30,000, although only $10,900 was budgeted for such an event in the CSU’s annual operating budget. According to the motion, Toto was responsible for the decision to reallocate $19,100 from the CSU’s campaign fund without consulting with either the Finance Committee or Council. This is in violation of bylaw 7.8, which states that it is the responsibility of the VP finance to “ensure that the budget adopted by Council is respected” and standing Regulation 80 which state that “all financial transactions of the Student Union must be carried out in accordance with the Annual Operating Budget, or by a resolution of Council adopted by the Council of Representatives.”
Chad Walcott, the councillor who is due to present the motion at the upcoming meeting, told The Concordian that he first noticed the issue in Toto’s executive report and was concerned when it became clear that the decision to reallocate the funds was not brought to the Financial Committee by Toto or presented to Council.
“In my opinion, in a situation where such a large sum of money is spent in violation of so many regulations, and without any oversight from the appropriate bodies, it warrants a serious discussion about the continued service of those responsible,” Walcott said.
Although Toto mentions the mistake in his executive report, Lauzon’s report describes the event in greater detail, stating that a number of factors led to the overspending and to the overall difficulties with holding the speaker series. He mentions that the recent budget cuts for universities was a factor, in that there was a sudden lack of funding from inside the university, despite earlier promises that Concordia would help finance a speaker series to be held at the school. As well, a tight deadline led to there being a rush to book a speaker and to make the payment on time. Low attendance was also a factor in the perceived failure of the speaker series.
“The event’s attendance was way lower than we would have liked,” Lauzon wrote in his report. “Although we tabled, had posters all around school, did some classroom presentations, as well as mentions in both the CSU and ASFA newsletters, we were unable to mobilize students to fill up H-110.”
Lauzon states that depending on the speaker, up to 150 students were in attendance at any one time. However, according to the CSU’s motion, there were only 47 students in attendance, which lead to a cost of approximately $640 per student.
In a written comment to The Concordian, Lauzon explained that ex-president Schubert Laforest, who was still in office at the time, was involved in the decision with Toto to combine the budget lines. Lauzon also questioned the attendance numbers mentioned in the motion, saying that they were not accurate, and criticized the fact that the motion included additional information that he felt wasn’t relevant.
“We’d all have an easier time dealing with this if the motion stuck to the relevant aspects only: the relevant accusations to dispose of an executive are clear in our by-laws…adding the number of students in attendance and anything else for that matter is simply an attack of character and will distract everyone from focusing on what is relevant,” he said. “What is relevant is that I combined two budget lines, and ended up paying more than $9, 999 for something without going to our financial committee…to me the rest is done in bad faith.
Lauzon also wrote that the decision to spend $30,000 on the speaker series was due to a surplus in funds.
“I was given primary control over both campaigns, and speakers’ budget lines at the start of my mandate. My understanding is that it was my responsibility to spend this money to benefit students as much as possible,” he wrote. “To reiterate the initial point, running a surplus is a negative thing to do for the CSU, and something I want to avoid. The $30,000 amount was decided due to my remaining resources at the time. After ASFA Talks I foresaw no expensive campaigns or events, so I identified this as an opportunity to have the best speaker as possible.”
Lauzon wrote that despite any frustration he may feel towards Toto or former CSU President, Schubert Laforest, for their roles in making the transaction without proper authorization, he holds himself responsible for signing off on the decision.