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Newburgh J-Boarded again

Case to examine Conflict of Interest Policy

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SSMU President Zach Newburgh will face his second Judicial Board case in as many years, as SSMU VP External Myriam Zaidi plans to submit a petition for a review of Newburgh’s adherence to the Conflict of Interest Policy during his work for Jobbook.

Despite numerous statements expressing a wish to move forward from the Jobbook controversy, Newburgh said that the prospect of a J-Board case is “great,” and will help provide closure.

The Judicial Board, which consists of up to five upper-year students from the Faculty of Law, is the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution and Bylaws of SSMU. According to the SSMU Constitution, the J-Board has the power to “declare invalid any act of Council, the Executive Committee or the General Manager” if it determines that an act violates the Constitution or Bylaws.

“Really, what a wonderful opportunity this is, to determine, ultimately, that I did not violate any policies,” Newburgh said. Since the petition has not yet been filed, Newburgh has not received official notification, though Zaidi informed him that she planned to bring the matter to J-Board.

Newburgh maintained “there was not a breach of this particular policy, and that in fact it was used in order to guide my involvement [with Jobbook] in the first place.”

“I wouldn’t have brought it to J-Board if I didn’t believe he breached the policy,” Zaidi said. “[The case is] going to be just the way that the Jobbook contract was handled, and whether or not he breached the policy.”

The possibility of referral to J-Board was discussed at SSMU Legislative Council on March 3, in a conversation surrounding the release of confidential minutes from Council’s in camera session a month earlier.

Speaker of Council Raymond Xing adhered to Robert’s Rules directions on the confidentiality of trials. “It is the prerogative of the Speaker to err on the side of caution on potentially damaging matters,” Xing said during Council. He later added that, “The J-Board exists for a reason.”

Zaidi claims that her petition will focus on interpretation of the policy, and will not involve a request for the release of confidential minutes. She said that her actions are “unrelated to the [March 3] Council.” Though there is still the possibility of a separate J-Board case regarding the confidential minutes, Zaidi said she will not file a petition on the issue.

Due to varying interpretations of the Conflict of Interest Policy, multiple councillors and executives have expressed a need to review and amend the policy. Newburgh has advocated for review, stating that the policy “needs to be a lot less ambiguous.”

“A number of people are very, very interested in reviewing this policy to make it more clear,” Newburgh said. “Not just for individuals who are directly affected by it, but for individuals who are concerned and want to be able to hold their leaders accountable.”

The first J-Board case involving Newburgh occurred in March of 2010 when Newburgh was Speaker of Council. The McGill chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights filed a petition contesting his impartiality during the Winter 2010 General Assembly. The petition was dismissed in June.