Three members of the University Park Undergraduate Association are listed as defendants in documents filed last week where a committee claims they committed violations when they purchased two iPads using UPUA funds.
The defendants have filed a response to these claims, seeking to dismiss the allegations of violations brought against them.
UPUA President Courtney Lennartz, Chair of the Assembly Spencer Malloy and Chief of Staff John Zang submitted the response to the Board of Arbitration, UPUA’s judicial body, on Jan. 11. In the response, the defendants address the petition for review, written by the Internal Development Committee and filed Jan. 9. The ID Committee oversees the internal activity of the assembly and UPUA and reviews governing documents such as the constitution, according to UPUA’s website.
The petition filed by the ID Committee states that Zang signed for the purchase of two iPads in Dec. 2012 using discretionary spending with the permission of Lennartz and Malloy, and contains allegations that the purchase violated the UPUA Budgetary Policy and the Code of Ethical Standards.
The defendants, in response, seek to dismiss the allegations. The defendants wrote that the nature of the situation written out by the plaintiffs is, “generally factual but does not accurately describe the situation because of the omission of relevant information,” according to the response.
The defendants clarified that no funds have yet left the Associated Student Activities account of UPUA, and it will remain that way until a tax exemption has been applied to the purchases. The ASA is the financial office for recognized student organizations on campus and acts as banker, accountant, paymaster and adviser on financial matters, according to its website.
In the ID Committee’s peitition, one of the alleged violations to the Budgetary Policy referenced that UPUA cannot release more than $1,000 from a single committee or director for a single purchase. The iPads, which cost $499 each, totaled to $998 without tax.
But with tax, the total amounts to $1,070, according to the response petition. The defendants argue that the petition for review was untimely filed by the plaintiffs because the transaction has not been completed, according to the response.
“It’s a miscommunication and that’s the ultimate problem,” Zang (senior-international politics) said. “I didn’t [purchase the iPads] with bad intentions and I didn’t think about how it would look to people out of the loop.”
Zang does not see any violations in his actions, he said.
Malloy is “confident” that the issue will be resolved quickly and said though there are more important things in UPUA that need attention, the petitions could not be ignored in case any sanctions or violations are found.
“We have a lot to be working on, but we can’t just not respond to this,” Malloy (senior-agroecology and philosophy) said. “I think there may be interesting lessons to be learned, like if we should look at our bylaws or policies.”
Further, the separation of purchases is evident in the sources of funding. One iPad was bought from the chair discretionary and one was bought by the presidential discretionary, according to the response. The use of the iPads will also be separated, according to the response. One of the iPads will be governed by the Assembly procedure and the other iPad by the executive.
In his executive position, Zang said he meets with administrators multiple times a week. The iPads are helpful to him to access resources like ANGEL and his email, so he can have information available in front of him during meetings just as administrators do.
“It was always the intention to use the iPads to facilitate UPUA members in doing their roles,” Zang said. “Access to resources on a tablet is a more effective means for advocating for students.”
In the response, the defendants request the allegations be dismissed on several grounds, one of them being that the ID Committee, which filed the original complaint, is inconsistent in their actions. According to the response, the committee has accepted every single sub-$1,000 purchase this year until last week. In addition, the petition references allegations of pooling of funds to purchase the iPads and avoid legislation before the assembly.
The defendants also filed an objection on Jan. 11 to the emergency petition for Writ of Mandamus filed on Jan. 10. The writ essentially requested the iPads under review be seized until matters are resolved. The defendants request that the Board of Arbitration dismiss the writ if it accepts the main petition at all, according to the objection.
The board is the judicial body for UPUA and oversees disputes within the student organization. The board is made up of nine members and has the power to conduct select hearings to look internally into UPUA conduct.
According to the objection, the board does not have authority to seize goods, but only items that contain record file, transcript, reports or persons. The defendants argue that justifying the iPads as devices containing records or files allows for seizure of extremely personal information that is irrelevant to the case, according to the objection.
Off-campus Representative Chair of Facilities Dave Harrington said the board will handle any specific violations, if there are any. Harrington said he does see a misunderstanding between members of UPUA.
“My concern is the timing of the purchase and the way it was done,” Harrington (senior-political science) said.
Harrington said he recently attended a meeting of the ID Committee, and there was discussion on how to look at the issue internally and resolve it for the future.
“We’re looking at ways to eliminate the issue in the future, like possibly redefining discretionary purposes and spending and looking at the budgetary policy to make clear what was gray before,” Harrington said.
The Board of Arbitration will be scheduling a hearing to be held in the next few days.