The Court of the Student Association has found SA President Michael Kimmer not guilty of charges brought upon him by members of the Executive Council.
The court met Tuesday night to hear the case presented by the Executive Council as well as Kimmer’s defense. Kimmer was represented by Joel Wood and Sapoon Duttaduwarah.
The council self-represented with Vice President of Finance Ryan Ferguson, Vice President of Student Affairs Arin Cotel-Altman and Executive Vice President Isabella Sofia presenting the grounds of impeachment.
The Executive Council accused Kimmer of violating several articles of the constitution, including Article V relating to “duties of the president,” and unprofessional behavior, Article XII relating to the Ferguson v. Kimmer case, held in the beginning of term, and Article XIV. The charges related to Article XIV, hazing, were dropped and the court did not hear arguments in regard to the charge.
“The Court found President Kimmer not guilty, and therefore (he) shall remain as President of the SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association,” according to a statement written by Chief Justice James Kennedy on behalf of the student court.
The court ruled in Kimmer’s favor 4-1.
Prosecutors began the hearing Tuesday night with their argument. Ferguson called Cotel-Altman as a first witness.
Ferguson presented a Facebook group chat as evidence, in which Kimmer discussed with Cotel-Altman and several other students the planning of a campus walkout in support of SUNY New Paltz. The walkout would fall under Cotel-Altman’s position, but she felt Kimmer had overstepped his boundaries as president and had taken the task organization away from her.
Ferguson argued that any action taken by Kimmer was still in violation of his duties as president.
The defense argued that the group chat did not prove Kimmer overstepped his or Cotel-Altman’s role because he did not create the Facebook group chat and because the walkout did not happen. Kimmer later agreed with Cotel-Altman in saying the walkout was unlikely to happen.
The prosecution move forwarding, calling former Vice President of Finance Jessica Rappaport to the stand. She was asked about her role in “replacing” Ferguson after Kimmer allegedly removed him from office in the beginning of the semester.
During cross-examination, it was determined that while Kimmer made the official appointment of Rappaport, he did so under advisement of SA Advisers PSUC Coordinator of Student Activities Jacob Avery and PSUC Vice President of Student Affairs Bryan Hartman. The defense argued Kimmer was new to his position and had not yet learned proper impeachment procedures regarding Ferguson’s GPA requirement.
The defense also questioned why the prior case of Ferguson v. Kimmer was being used for grounds of impeachment against Kimmer now, months after the original trial took place.
The prosecution continued its argument, providing emails sent by Kimmer announcing Ferguson’s removal. Kimmer said his actions were considered an “executive decision.” Senator Roland Carrigan said the Senate was faced with no other option but to elect Rappaport to replace Ferguson.
The defense then presented its case. Witnesses included faculty, staff and Senators who attested to Kimmer’s character and positive influence on the SA.
The first witness called was College Auxiliary Services Executive Director Wayne Dupree. Dupree said he had never witness Kimmer act unprofessionally, saying Kimmer added a positive contribution to meetings in which they both took part.
The defense also called CDPI Staff Assistant Aaron Schwartz to the stand. He called Kimmer “passionate and headstrong” about his role as president. He also said Kimmer was a “phenomenal representative,” for the student body, from what he has seen through various CDPI meetings.
Senators Joseph Lewis and Brooke Anderson were called as witnesses on behalf of the Senate. Both said Kimmer had never shown instances of unprofessionalism, but rather, passionate behavior. Lewis said he felt Kimmer had never hindered his goals as a senator.
SA Secretary Melanie Wyand testified against claims that Kimmer had shouted at Vice President of Clubs and Organizations Taeko Kelly in the SA office after hours. She said she witnessed the “heated discussion,” between the two. She said it was not an “attack” from either side.
Kimmer said during closing arguments that the claims brought against him by the Executive Council were fraudulent and provided various text messages, letters and emails to show there was not a hostile environment between members of the Executive Council and himself. Messages were friendly and effective in communication.
“It’s been a pleasure serving thus far,” Kimmer said. “I know I’ve done a good job.”
In the written document provided by the court, Kennedy explained the court’s reasons for finding Kimmer not guilty. He wrote witness testimony helped prove his innocence on charges related to his duties as president, as his witnesses provided positive feedback.
The charges related to the improper removal of Ferguson from office were ruled as the “result of false precedent and poor advisement,” and therefore, “not grounds for impeachment.”
“I hope that commnication improves and our opinions are correctly stated and not falsely stated to faculty and staff.” Cotel-Altman said after the hearing regarding next semester. “I hope that there are no more violations to the constitution.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org