Turmoil, Democracy in CU Democrats
Move Made to Impeach President Tim Lim
ITHACA, NY – On the evening of Tuesday, March 1st, three members of the Cornell Democrats executive board met to discuss an issue whose response, if not itself the catalyst for what was to come, would be a major step in changing the face of campus politics. The three decided that the time had come to exercise their right to impeach another member of the executive board.
The Democrats’ constitution lays-out a basic guideline for how the process should take place: ‘Any officer negligent in his/ her duties may be removed by a unanimous vote of the remaining executive board members.’ While vague, it outlines a fairly simple procedure. What followed, however, was anything but.
During the course of their discussions on the potential impeachment of Cornell Democrats President Tim Lim, Vice President Mitch Fagen says that he decided that in order to maintain the legitimacy of the process, a discussion of the issue at a general meeting was necessary. In the hours before the meeting, Fagen and others contacted a sizable group of people, some of whom had attended meetings in the past, and some of whom had rarely done so. They were all told that something important was going to happen and their presence would be helpful. Thus, it came to be that in a room that generally holds about 20 people on Wednesday afternoons for Democrats meetings, at least double that number packed the Music Room in Willard Straight Hall to witness what was so important.
In the interim, the Cornell Daily Sun also got wind of the importance of the meeting and sent a reporter. While the reporter was asked to leave for part of the meeting so that discussion could take place freely, someone in the room had recorded the conversation and passed it onto the Sun. The author of the article from March 3rd, Michael Morisy, would only say that it was recorded by a person in the room and not a recording device left there.
When Lim entered the room on that Wednesday, he passed comment on the large number of people in the room but claims that he had no idea what was about to happen. After speaking briefly on unrelated matters, Fagen took the floor.
He addressed the group, telling them that he had discussed with other executive board members, Secretary Treasurer Jamie Gullen and Director of Fundraising Tory Lauterbach, several issues that he felt made Lim unfit for the job and describing his reasons for bringing the issue to a general meeting.
Fagen outlined charges of voter fraud in the Student Assembly elections as the primary reason for believing that Lim should be impeached; in an interview he said that he could not ‘in good conscience’ continue to work with Lim. Fagen, Gullen, and Lauterbach further accused Lim of keeping the executive board out of important discussions like the organization of Howard Dean’s visit to campus. Lauterbach told Turn Left that Lim had given out positions to people without regard for who ended-up filling the various roles. Lauterbach cited the fact that Nina Fixell, Director of Public Relations, had not served her job, but, instead, Steve Grossman, the Director of Speakers, was given many of Fixell’s responsibilities.
Seemingly for the first time, the legitimacy of several members of the executive board was brought into question. The constitution states, ‘A majority vote elected executive board shall be charged with overseeing the day to day operations [of the club],’ yet several members of the executive board had not been elected. In fact, only Lim, Fagen, Gullen, and Fixell had been elected; the three remaining members wereappointed by the elected board.
The appointments were problematic to say the least. At the meeting, Gullen shared that she had been elected to the position of Secretary / Treasurer last spring. She had discussed with Lim several times over the course of her one-year tenure what to do about writing-up a budget and dealing with finances. She said that each time she was told not to worry about it until the deadline for submitting budgets had already passed. Gullen later discovered that she was not listed on the Student Activities website as treasurer; instead, Grossman was listed. Lim does not deny that he subverted Gullen’s position; he told TL that Grossman ‘had more experience’ because he was on SAFC and so was asked to take care of the Democrats’ budget. Randy Lariar, who was later listed on the website as the treasurer, says that he never acted in any capacity as the same. (Unlike Grossman, Lariar was not on the SAFC, though he is a member of the Student Assembly and Lim’s Students First ticket.) Where Lim and Gullen differ is that Lim claims to have told the executive board who, despite ‘one or two complaints,’ tacitly agreed that it was okay; Gullen says that she was never told.
The Howard Dean event was another point of contention. Lauterbach says that she spoke to administrators who said that the event was not run properly, and the administration was basically left in the dark. While Lauterbach said that the event could have been held at a larger venue if the right people had been involved, Lim maintains that he contacted the Statler and the administration several times, but they refused to allow the event to take place there as it would interfere with classes.
While there were many accusations made at Lim about the Democrats, the most heated issue seems to have been that of the Student Assembly elections. Lim’s ticket has long been associated with the Cornell Democrats, and many at the meeting felt that this association was hurtful to the organization. Fagen, Gullen, and Lauterbach all told TL that, to varying degrees, they hope that the Cornell Democrats will stay out of the Student Assembly.
Throughout the discussion, members of the audience questioned the motivation behind bringing these issues up at that particular meeting, one week before elections. Fagen said that as soon as they had ample evidence to go ahead with the impeachment, they did; he said that he ‘wasn’t going to do him [Lim] a favor by waiting one week.’ Neither Fagen nor Gullen was running for Student Assembly, but Lauterbach was running for Class of 2006 Council. Lauterbach agrees that the timing was poor, especially for her situation, but Fagen organized the proceedings.
After about an hour of discussion where it seemed that most of the audience agreed that it was not the appropriate day to vote on impeaching Lim, Lim finally conceded to Fagen. The mood in the room indicated that most would be open to waiting a week for Lim to have an opportunity to bring his own friends to the meeting, but Lim decided that he would resign because it would be impossible for the executive board to work together in any capacity in the future as tensions between them were so high. The conversation that ensued questioned when the right moment for Lim to release his resignation would be. Everyone in the room was very cognizant of the looming elections, as this was just under a week before the Student Assembly elections. The decision was made that Lim would resign, and that evening, he sent an e-mail to the Cornell Democrats e-mail list, informing them of the same.
The final decisions of the quorum were to dissolve the Cornell Democrats executive board and to hold elections two weeks from that day on March 16th.
Sam Buffone, who, despite having worked on Senator Kerry’s campaign last semester, has admittedly only attended two meetings of the Democrats this year. Buffone is running against Fagen for the office of President; both have made it very clear in their platforms that they want to distance themselves from the Cornell Democrats of this year. The only student running for a Democrats position who also ran for Student Assembly is Randy Lariar who is running for Vice President.
Elections for the new executive board are this Wednesday, and it will certainly be a turning-point for the club with Lim, president for the last two years, no longer in the driver seat.