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Judicial Board Releases Verdict

Decision made in Buraga v. Mansdoerfer and Wang

The Judicial Board of the SSMU released its final decision on the petition brought forward by Senator Bryan Buraga against President Tre Mansdoerfer and VP Finance Jun Wang on December 14. The Board ruled in favour of the respondents, Mansdoerfer and Wang. The Judicial Board consists of one Chief Justice, Georgina Hartono, and four other Justices, Benjamin Herrera, Daniel Minden, Natasha Petrof, and Samuil Rosenov Stoychev.

In the original petition, Buraga alleged that the October 11 and the October 18 passing of the Gender and Sexual Violence Policy (GSVP) was unconstitutional, as were the results of their referenda. Buraga, in his petition, and during the November 20 hearing, maintained that this motion was not legitimate because it lacked the requisite number of movers, and that it did not comply with Elections SSMU’s timeline. According to the Elections SSMU regulations, all questions included in the Fall 2018 referendum must have been submitted by October 15. At the time of the October 11 meeting it was believed that the motion had four movers. Buraga, originally a mover of the motion, had withdrawn his support prior to the meeting. After Buraga filed his petition on October 14, President Mansdoerfer called an extraordinary meeting of Legislative Council. The special meeting, held on October 18, saw a motion amending the October 11 policies, ensuring that the GSVP had enough movers.

The judgement examines a conflict between the Standing Rules of Legislative Council, which asserts that a motion only needs three movers, and the Internal Regulations of Government, which dictates that questions destined for referendum must have four movers. Citing section 5.1 of the Standing Rules, which gives the Standing Rules precedence in matters of conflict, the Judicial Board “conclude[d] that the October 11 Motion was constitutionally adopted as it had the requisite number of movers.” Because the October 18 motion is seen as an amendment to the October 11 motion, the Judicial Board found that the question posed in the 2018 Fall Referendum, and its results, were valid.

In his petition, Buraga also alleges that by not finding alternatives to a fee levy, VP Finance Jun Wang violated the standard of care outlined in section 16.1 of the SSMU constitution and section 5.3.5 of the GSVP. Section 16.1 of the constitution requires that SSMU executives “act in good faith” and perform their duties with the “care, diligence, and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances.” Section 5.3.5 of the GSVP states that the VP Finance is responsible for funding the GSVP through the SSMU budget. While the GSVP is funded by a fee levy, the Judicial Board concluded that the creation of a fee levy was not in violation of the GSVP. The Board asserted in their report that because the VP Finance “stat[ed] that the SSMU should first attempt to fund the GSVP with a fee levy, he was pursuing his obligation of ensuring that the GSVP would be funded.” The VP Finance had also suggested at the October 11 meeting that if the fee levy was unable to be implemented, cuts to the SSMU budget could be made to ensure the funding of the GSVP. This, in the eyes of the Judicial Board, again proved that the VP Finance did not violate the standard of care.

In an email to the Daily, President Mansdoerfer said he is “glad that the issue is resolved and that all processes were followed in the fee being brought to referendum.” In a statement to the Daily, Senator Buraga expressed that although the Board did not file in favour of his case, he is “glad that [his] case started a conversation about SSMU’s role in protecting survivors of sexual violence.” Elaborating, he promised to “continue to fight for permanent funding for the GSVP. [He] look[s] forward to working with the SSMU President and VP Finance to do so,” he finished.

On what’s next after the verdict, Buraga said that he is waiting to see how the SSMU executives restructure the fees before he takes further action on the matter.

Mansdoerfer also told the Daily that SSMU “recently approved the hiring of two of the coordinators for the GSVP,” and that they are “looking forward to them starting their work soon.”