The Pitt News

Barney’s Back: Judicial Committee resinstates Elections Chair

By Harrison Kaminsky, Cristina Holtzer and Danielle Fox / The Pitt News Staff

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The Student Government Board Elections Committee Chair will reclaim her job, effective immediately, following the Judicial Committee’s ruling on her reinstatement. 

According to a release sent by Andrew Van Treeck, Judicial Committee vice chair, who heard the case Thursday night, the Committee deliberated and found that Elections Committee Chair Lauren Barney’s dismissal was “not justified according to codes which govern the actions of the University of Pittsburgh Student Government.”

The Committee’s decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Kevin Tracey, the former Elections Committee vice chair who replaced Barney during her dismissal, resigned following the ruling. He sent his resignation to the committee via email Saturday morning. 

Tracey said in an email that he resigned to “ensure another leadership transition would not affect the election in a negative way.”

“I don’t believe [resuming my role as vice chair] would have substantial effect on the election. I just wanted to avoid any unnecessary tension or strain that might have persisted in this transition,” Tracey said.  

Barney appealed the Board’s decision to dismiss her in a public hearing on Thursday night in a conference room outside the SGB office. SGB President Mike Nites, who represented the Board at the hearing, cited concerns over misconduct throughout the course of Barney’s tenure as Elections Committee chairwoman as the primary reason for her dismissal.

According to the release, Article VIII, Section 8.01 of the SGB Constitution states a committee chair can be dismissed if he or she:

Are absent from four or more public meetings of the Board without excuse

Fail to act in accordance with the responsibilities as outlined by the Constitution, the SGB Bylaws, and/or Code of Ethics

Fail to perform the duties of their office as prescribed and determined by the Board.

According to the release, neither side submitted evidence to show Barney was absent from three or more public meetings. 

The committee found Barney did not violate the SGB Code of Ethics and, therefore, is not eligible for dismissal on the grounds of ethical violations. The committee also found Barney met the requirements of the Constitution, SGB Bylaws and/or Code of Ethics, as well as duties determined by the Board. 

The committee found Barney not in violation of a series of other ethical, procedural and duty-based infractions as well. 

In the release, the committee addressed a portion of the Board’s written appeal regarding comments Barney made in a Pitt News article following her dismissal. 

The Board argued that Barney divulged information regarding the infraction hearing. 

The Board’s written appeal reads: “Although she was not elections chair when she disclosed that information, the Board believes that it is reasonable to expect that she would maintain information as confidential if she expected to return to her position through the appeals process.” 

The Judicial Committee ruled that since Barney had already been dismissed from her position at the time of her statement to The Pitt News, she was not in violation of the Elections Code. 

Barney said upon finding out the decision made by the Judicial Committee to rule in her favor, she felt empowered and reassured as opposed to relieved.

“I knew I did nothing wrong. Now that I have had due process, justice took its course,” Barney said. 

Barney said a positive did come out of the appeals process.

“I think part of the issue was my lack of understanding of the SGB governing code,” Barney said. “Now, after extensive review [of the governing code] from the hearing, I am way more informed on it.”

Nites accused Barney of looking to create unnecessary drama with an “exciting election” during the hearing, but Barney said the hearing only “impeded the process of a fair, honest and efficient election.” 

“I don’t think it created any drama. If you’re professional about this, it’s not like anyone’s out to get someone,” Barney said. 

Barney said putting politics aside, she wanted to make this a fair election for the candidates.

Tracey does not think Barney’s reinstatement will have a major impact on the election. 

Nites said he would not question how the Judicial Committee interpreted the Elections Code, Governing Code or SGB Constitution, and he trusts the members’ judgment.

“I’m a fan of following the procedures and rules,” Nites said. “I respect the appeal process. I believe that’s why it exists. The Judicial Committee exists to give due process to people.” 

While he said he wished the hearing hadn’t run so close to the closing time of the William Pitt Union, which forced the Judicial Committee to limit time during closing arguments, Nites said each side “got to state [its] side of the story adequately,” and the hearing was consistent throughout. 

Regarding Barney’s allegations that Nites did not meet with her consistently enough to discuss her progress or conduct, Nites said he would be happy to meet with her more formally during the next two months that they will work together on SGB. 

“If that’s how [Barney] wants to conduct that, then I am happy to do that for the two months we have left together,” Nites said. 

 

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Barney’s Back: Judicial Committee resinstates Elections Chair