The University of Maryland SGA voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for its ethics committee to launch an investigation into and potentially impeach student body president Ayelette Halbfinger on claims that she interfered with election outcomes.
Senior mechanical engineering major Matthew Weiss, the Student Government Association’s engineering representative, proposed impeaching Halbfinger.
“I was brought facts that have been verified by the Chief Justice that the student body president used her official position to unfairly … interfere with the outcome and results of the election cycle this election, to favor one party over the other,” Weiss said.
The question of election violations revolves around the Aspire Maryland party’s use of a university-owned table for campaigning – an expense documented incorrectly in the party’s financial report. The table was documented as a full price, large table, when instead Aspire Maryland rented and used the university-owned table for free.
A statement verified by Emma Selvin, the SGA governance board’s chief justice, alleged that Halbfinger assembled a new, unconfirmed governance board, which voted Monday to enact election violation points against the Aspire Maryland party for not disclosing the table’s usage in their financial report.
Before Halbfinger assembled a new board, the SGA’s official governance board had held that Aspire Maryland’s use of the table did not warrant an election violation, according to the statement.
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The investigation into Halbfinger’s alleged formation of this board will start in the SGA’s ethics committee, which could call for an impeachment hearing for Halbfinger.
The push to launch an investigation, which the SGA supported with a vote of 24-3-2, comes amid a delay in the release of SGA election results for the 2023-24 academic year. Voting closed April 26.
As part of its review process for election violation-related appeals, the SGA’s elections commission had also decided last week that Aspire Maryland should not receive violation points for its use of the university-owned table, according to a statement from the SGA’s governance board.
On April 30, the governance board held a hearing about a petition that United Maryland presidential candidate Alexandra DeBus submitted, which said the elections commission’s decision was erroneous. The junior biochemistry major is the SGA’s current vice president.
The SGA’s official governance board upheld the elections commission’s decision, denying DeBus’ petition and opting not to assign violation points to Aspire Maryland for using the table.
The statement Selvin verified alleged Halbfinger then convened an illegitimate governance board, which voted to give Aspire Maryland a violation for its use of the table. The SGA’s governance board advisor was not present at this illegitimate board’s meeting, the statement said.
“There is no way to forcibly remove and replace the members of the Governance Board without their replacements being confirmed by the legislature,” the statement read.
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Halbfinger said that she has dedicated herself to the integrity of student government in her position as president in a written statement to The Diamondback.
“This is a stunt by individuals who prefer not to be held accountable and who seek to undermine the sanctity of student government elections,” the statement read. “I trust that in the end, their efforts which threaten to corrupt the system will fail and the integrity of SGA and student leadership will be upheld.”
There is no clearly defined timeline for when the ethics committee must hand down its decision in the SGA’s bylaws, but new representatives will be inaugurated on May 8.
The SGA also elected Weiss as Speaker Pro Tempore at its Wednesday meeting.
Former Speaker Pro Tempore Faina Pensy, a sophomore communication and government and politics major, stepped down April 23.
Weiss — who previously served as Speaker Pro Tempore in fall 2022 — ran for the position against sophomore computer engineering major Eliav Hamburger.
The ethics committee that is investigating the claims contains six people — three appointed by the current president and three appointed by the Speaker Pro Tempore. If there are vacancies on the committee, either the president or Weiss will appoint new members depending on who the vacant seat was originally appointed by.
The Speaker Pro Tempore also presides over impeachment hearings, according to the SGA’s bylaws.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better describe the documentation of the cost of Aspire Maryland’s campaign table.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the date of the Student Government Association’s inauguration. The inauguration will be on Monday, May 8. This story has been updated.