SGA executive board reinstates disqualified senators, members beef over decision

mental supportTwo senators who were disqualified earlier this week were reinstated on May 5. | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Elise Catrion Gregg | Investigative Director

In a lightning-quick turnaround, Thursday’s disqualified student government senators have been put back in place. 

Mere days before they were to be sworn in, incoming senators Daniel Salup-Cid and Kassandra Toussaint were disqualified by the judicial branch on May 1, which found them guilty of knowingly providing the elections board with false information in February. 

However, Toussaint and Salup-Cid appealed the decisions to the executive board.

The executive board originally met on Thursday, May 2, to decide the case. However, they had to meet again on Sunday – in the last 24 hours of their terms – because their previous meeting was not 24 hours after the judicial opinion, which violates SGA rules.

Student government president Alexander Sutton told PantherNOW that their original opinion from Thursday was the same on Sunday. 

“The outcome was functionally the same as in the prior meeting,” Sutton wrote in a Sunday email to the SGA judicial branch and members of the Senate. “Salup-Cid and Toussaint had their removals overturned by the Executive Board and will take office on May 6, 2024 at the Senate meeting at 4 PM.” 

Executives reasoned that the Supreme Court didn’t comply with SGA governing documents on several counts, with minutes showing that outgoing SGA President Alex Sutton thought the original decision should have been dead on arrival. 

“This decision wasn’t able to happen because it wasn’t filed as a Writ of Appeal and it wasn’t filed within 24 hours of the Elections Board decision,” Sutton summarized in the minutes.

The executive board’s memo on the reversal of Daniel Salup-Cid’s disqualification. The memo for Kassandra Toussaint uses the same language. | Courtesy of the SGA executive board.

The court disagrees. In a statement to PantherNOW, justices wrote that they believe the executive board does not have jurisdiction over this case and that the Supreme Court did have jurisdiction over the original case.

Justices wrote that they had clear rights and reasons to take the case. 

“Overall, both candidates clearly violated the Elections Code even though both candidates won their seats with two campaign bans for extended periods of time,” justices wrote. “ The Court

deeply sympathizes with the defendants on the obstacles they have endured this semester in and out of campaigning for SGA Senate.” 

“However, the Court must uphold our governing documents and the evidence from Attorney Zachary General Stangl’s writ was still standing and had yet to be disproven thus constituting a violation under our documents.” 

Statement to PantherNOW from the SGA judicial branch.

Nearly all executive board members affirmed the decision to overturn both Toussaint and Salup-Cid’s disqualification with the exception of Vice President Santana Way. 

“I am not against Daniel or Kassandra personally, I just believe that the entire process was broken on many levels and could not vote yes and agree with it,” Way told PantherNOW via text. “It wasn’t clear which constitution we were following and there were many procedures that weren’t followed throughout the entire process.”

Way emphasized that he did not participate in writing the memo.

Originally, justices disqualified Salup-Cid and Toussaint based on writs filed by Stangl, attorney general and Gold and Blue party chair. 

He alleged malfeasance, requesting their removal based on their testimony to the elections board in February over campaign materials. The court stated in their opinions that because the two hadn’t been sworn in yet, they couldn’t be considered guilty of malfeasance.

However, justices ruled that had the elections board had the evidence Stangl presented on April 30, they would have disqualified Toussaint and Salup-Cid back in February

For a couple of days, the two were out. Now, they’ve returned with the blessing of SGA executives. 

Though the executives have the right to take appeals cases for writs of removal, Stangl argued that because it was not a removal case, executives needed to step off. 

‘Given that this writ brought this before the court, the court decided that a Tier-1 violation was in order and administered their decision rightfully,” Stangl wrote in an email to the executive board. “The E-board does not have appellate jurisdiction over candidate disqualifications.” 

The judges concur.

“There is no direct law that states the Elections Board is the only body that can deal with issues regarding elections considering the Supreme Court earlier this year affirmed the Presidential and Vice-Presidential ticket via an opinion in response to a Writ of Interpretation,” their statement reads.

The executive’s legal reasoning delves into the niches of SGA governing documents. First, though the justices differentiated between disqualification and removal, the executive board didn’t buy it.

“Even though the opinion specified that the Supreme Court decided to disqualify Salup-Cid’s candidacy, rather than remove Salup-Cid from office, the Executive Board holds that the Supreme Court decision was a de facto and de jure removal,” reads the opinion for Salup-Cid. 

The same language was used in the opinion for Toussaint. 

In other words, though the court recognized they couldn’t remove senators who hadn’t been sworn in yet, they reasoned they could disqualify them as candidates. However, the executive board argued that the result was the same as a removal and that because the original writ was one of removal, the result was, in fact, a removal. 

With those grounds established, the executive opinions start by stating that what Toussaint and Salup-Cid stand accused of does not fit any of the four criteria for removal of a senator: absences, incomplete office hours, bribery or conviction of a felony. 

Further, executives ruled that the Supreme Court didn’t have the authority to rule on what should have been the sole jurisdiction of the Elections Board without a properly filed appeal. 

“In order to have the authority to disqualify a candidate, an appeal of an Elections Board

decision needs to be filed to the Supreme Court,” reads the executive opinion. 

“Because this case was not filed as an appeal, and because this Writ was not filed within twenty-four hours of the Elections Board decision, the Supreme Court did not comply with the governing documents, and the decision was overturned.” 

Again, justices weren’t having it. 

“To the Executive Board, the Supreme Court of FIU SGA highly advises that each

member read these opinions,” their statement reads, “so that each member remains informed when considering overturning this decision.” 

“It was not a removal of office but a disqualification granted by our exclusive jurisdiction of violations of SGA documents and the power of the Supreme Court to hear cases that fall under this jurisdiction as seen in (SGAC) § and §” 

Tomorrow, Salup-Cid and Toussaint will be sworn in with their peers. However, the case may still be taken past student government.

“Ultimately this decision will be up to the Division of Academic and Student Affairs to implement, starting with SGA advisors who will decide to include the names of these senators in the chambers on placards,” Sutton told PantherNOW.

“I believe it is possible that Kassandra and Daniel might further appeal this matter to administration within the Division of Academic and Student Affairs for a final decision.”

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