SFSS holds meeting to discuss impeachment of three Council members

An investigation began after a confidentiality breach during the February 16 meeting

The SFU student union building can be seen. The sky behind is blue and cloudy. You can see the sky reflecting off the windows of the student union building.
This is the second time in four years the Council has impeached a member.

By: Isabella Urbani, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 27, 2022 to clarify that only one Councillor was impeached. Originally, it was stated that all three censured Council members were impeached. The article also has been updated to note the report can be found on the SFSS website once its published — rather than their Instagram as previously stated. Lastly, the policy change to censures were made on April 26, 2022, whereas we originally said April 27, 2022.

The article was updated on June 16, 2022 to clarify censured councillors cannot serve on any committee outside their faculty Caucuses, specifically when censured for breaches of confidence. 

During the March 30, 2022 Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) council meeting, three councillors were censured and one was subsequently impeached based on the recommendation of the Committee on Councilor Breaches of Confidence (CCBC).

In an interview with The Peak, acting president Corbett Gildersleve discussed the incident during the February 16 meeting wherein a private SFSS document was reportedly leaked. Following the event, Gildersleve noted the CCBC conducted an investigation and found screenshots of a document SFU sent to the SFSS about the Student Union Building closure had surfaced on Reddit. The Peak could not verify the document was published on Reddit. 

According to Gildersleve, the councillors allegedly included “false statements that the SFSS was violating its lease with SFU in relation to the SUB.” Gildersleve did not specify what the false statements were.

By leaking the documents councillors Zaid Lari and Graham Rich, and councillor alternate  Shariq Ahsan’s violated their confidentiality and fiduciary duties, Gildersleve explained. All three of the censures on the councillors were carried unanimously. A censure is a “formal rebuke of a person’s statements and/or actions by council,” added Gildersleve. 

“Each person on the SFSS council — who are the organization’s Board of Directors — has to follow our bylaws and policies and have a fiduciary duty to act honestly and in good faith with the best interests of the SFSS in mind when exercising their powers,” he added. 

Before this year, a censure was the lowest form of disciplinary action. Above that are fines, request of resignation, and then impeachments. “Any of those disciplinary options could be chosen, potentially multiple ones if it’s a particularly bad situation,” said Gildersleve. 

However, as of April 26, 2022 councillors censured for breaches of confidence are now unable to serve on any committee outside of their faculty Caucuses, which poses a new series of issues. 

“This has a major impact as [much] of the SFSS’s work can occur through committees,” said Gildersleve. Essentially, this disciplinary action leaves a censured member unable to meet the responsibilities to participate fully in their position as a council member. 

At the council meeting, there was an impeachment following the censures. An impeachment removes a councillor from being on the Board of Directors and ceases their voting power. Gildersleve noted the impeachment process varies depending on whether an executive or non-executive councillor is the one being voted upon. Regardless, the SFSS membership has the ability to impeach an SFSS council member at an annual general meeting or referendum. The executive Board on its own cannot vote to impeach or censure. 

Since the councillor was not an executive, an impeachment could be granted through a 4/5 majority vote. Councilor Lari was impeached. Rich was originally up for an impeachment, but the motion was amended to request his resignation instead. Ahsan was not an elected member for the 2021/22 term so could not have been impeached at that time. His term began in the 2022/23 period. The Council has recommended him for impeachment when his term begins. At the time of publication, no action has been made towards an impeachment. 

“This is the first time we’ve used that rule to remove a non-executive councillor,” Gildersleve added. “ I believe that shows how thorough and informative the CCBC’s report and recommendations were to council that they unanimously agreed to five out of six motions.” 

This is the second time in four years that the Council has impeached a member. Previously, SFSS president Jas Randhawa was removed from their position in 2018. When asked what measures have been put in place to keep future impeachments — particularly multi-impeachments — from occurring, Gildersleve pointed to the changing by-laws. 

“The impeachment of the SFSS president in 2018 was under a different set of bylaws — Council was separate from the Board of Directors and was an advisory body at the time,” he said. “We now fall under new bylaws with a new governance model where council is the Board of Directors, and there’s now additional rules and procedures for certain types of impeachments.”

In addition, new training will be made available for new councillors and executives “around [confidentiality and fiduciary] responsibilities and what can happen if they’re breached,” revealed Gildersleve. 

The Peak reached out to impeached councillors Lari and Rich for a statement, but both declined to comment until a public version of the CCBC report is made available online. Ahsan did not respond by the publication deadline. The report will describe the investigation and breached policies, along with the “harm this has caused not only to the SFSS but to some of its members,” said Gildersleve. He anticipates the report will be released shortly. 

To view the report once it’s released, visit the SFSS website.