Whispers of Impeachment Swirl in SGA

SGA President Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) faces criticism for dismissing former Chief of Staff Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C)./Aashna Sahni, Contributing

The 52nd legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) convened on Monday night to discuss potential impeachment proceedings for SGA President Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) in wake of Ma’s decision to fire former SGA Chief of Staff Ben Palmer (18Ox, 20C).

SGA Attorney General Kaia Ordal (17Ox, 19C) said Palmer’s dismissal did not violate the SGA Constitution.

“Upon the Council’s analysis of our current governing documents, and keeping in mind that the Constitution supersedes the Code, they determined that Dwight is technically given the authority to remove Ben as according to the Constitution,” Ordal said.  

“All non-elected members and officers serve at the pleasure of the President of the SGA,” according to the SGA Constitution.

Ordal called for a meeting with her and the Constitutional Council on Nov. 1 to discuss the constitutionality of Ma’s termination of Palmer. Palmer, Chief Justice Owen Mattocks (20C), Associate Justices Sam Branson (20C), Matthew Ribel (19C) and Jane Wang (22C) were present at the meeting.   

“The Constitutional Council’s decision not to file a case against Dwight does not minimize the unprofessional and inappropriate manner in which Dwight went about removing Ben,” Ordal said during the SGA meeting. “The Executive Board finds Dwight’s decision greatly reflective of other troubling behaviors he has exhibited and the choices he has made over the course of this semester, and we hope the Executive Board is not irreparably damaged because of the result of Ben’s removal.”

Ordal called the meeting with the intention of informing the Constitutional Council of Palmer’s termination and to seek “consultation” on the matter, according to Mattocks.

Mattocks said the meeting was “very informal” and that the Constitutional Council did not come to a formal ruling because no case was presented. However, the Constitutional Council deemed that appointed members can be fired by the SGA president.

“It was pretty clear-cut,” Mattocks said.  

Mattocks said he did not know whether Palmer would bring charges against Ma.

“I can’t speak to his intentions,” Mattocks said.

At the SGA meeting on Monday, SGA Speaker of the Legislature and Sophomore Representative Lori Steffel (21C) outlined impeachment procedures but added that no request had been formally submitted.

According to the Rules and Procedures of SGA, valid reasons for impeachment include gross violation of the SGA Constitution, failure to fulfill the duties of one’s office, study abroad, violation of the Honor Code, abuse of power, or other exceptional misconduct determined by the Governance Committee or the Constitutional Council.   

Ma said he respects the legislature’s powers to impeach.

If charges are brought, an impeachment hearing would follow where both the accusing party and the subject of inquiry would present their cases. Once the hearing concludes, a two-thirds majority vote by the legislature is needed to impeach the president.

SGA Sophomore Representative Zion Kidd (21C) said he believes that Ma did nothing to violate the Constitution. He also said impeachment is a very serious charge and that it should be given very careful consideration.