According to a memo sent from Senate President Brandon Johnson to Chief Justice Ronald Nelson, Student Body President Justin Bruno and Vice President Devin Harrison were impeached on Feb. 6, 2017.
This move came right after the Student Senate formally confirmed Bruno and Harrison as President and Vice President of the student body. The charges are listed as a “breach of our student body statutes,” according to Florida Board of Governors chapter 602.4 subsection C, regulation 6.014 subsection 7 and Florida state statute 1004.26 sections 4(a) and 4(b).
Since Bruno was sworn in by the administration on Jan. 13, 2017 he has served as a Board of Trustee member. However, it is unclear who carried out the day-to-day tasks of student body president between Jan. 13 and Feb. 6, when Bruno and Harrison were confirmed by the Student Senate.
This move has caused friction with student leaders and the administration.
Impeachment due to malfeasances of the student body president and vice president or any student leader is not a new phenomenon. The case will serve as a blueprint for future student government’s administration on how to deal with attacks on student government’s autonomy.
When asked about the charges, Bruno stated, “It’s hard to comment on what’s going on because myself and my counterpart [Vice President] Devin Harrison all we’ve been told on record and in writing is that the Student Senate voted to start an impeachment process for both of our offices."
“I am clear that there was no justification or grounds provided in the correspondence that we were given…..so I am limited as to what I can say because I don’t have the information myself,” said Bruno.
The Student Body Statutes chapter 602.4 subsection C states that “all ballots containing only one candidate listed for any office shall have a space for ‘NONE OF THE ABOVE.’” Many leaders in student government are calling this breach a disenfranchisement of the students.
“The impeachment is an act of accountability since there was an election that was supposed to take place, unfortunately this act robbed students of their right to vote,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kennedy Webster.
Senator Marquis McMiller asserts that they were not sworn in under the right circumstances. “The moment they were sworn in, [they were] sworn in under violation of the law so they had a responsibility to recues themselves.”
The Student Senate claims that taking office without an election is a malfeasance of duty of Bruno and Harrison. They also acknowledged that the administration allegedly violated the student government’s autonomy when they chose to recognize and swear in Bruno and Harrison without students present or Student Government’s knowledge.
Since the Florida State Statues 1004.26 sections 4(a) and 4(b) and the Florida Board of Governors’ statutes 6.014 subsection 7 only speaks about the removal through petition and referendum, it is unclear why the Student Senate chose to impeach Bruno and Harrison instead of starting a petition to put a referendum on the ballot to remove them from office.
Bruno revealed that the university has contracted an outside source to help students interpret and ameliorate contradictions and discrepancies in the student body documents.
Senate President Johnson expressed his feelings towards the administration's move.
“For the university to seek outside counsel to help students interpret documents that were written by students is terrible. As Senate President, to not know this and to hear this from a reporter is nonsense and is disrespectful to my title, to my branch and student government in general. I would like for the university to ask if we need help interpreting because [student government doesn’t] have a problem interpreting documents. We are not the branch that has that issue.”
At Monday’s senate meeting, student Supreme Court nominees will be up for confirmation and on Wednesday, impeachment proceedings will begin.
Vice President Harrison and the Electoral Commission were unavailable for comment on this matter.