At the ASUCR meeting held on Wednesday, April 29, members of ASUCR debated SB-S20: Addition of Section 11 to Chapter 8 Stipends and Regulations.
During Committee Reports, President Pro Tempore and CHASS Senator Miguel Ramirez presented the bill. He explained that this bill would require that non-elected ASUCR student hires must sign a form if they were to be fired or put on unpaid leave. He explained that this bill intended to make it easier for ASUCR’s payroll staff and to protect non-elected employees from abuses of power. This bill ensued a debate between Ramirez, ASUCR Executive Director Laurie Sinclair, Executive Vice President Abigail Cortes and President Julian Gonzalez.
If an executive cabinet member were to put one of their paid staff members on unpaid leave, this bill would require that the employee being put on an unpaid leave of absence and the Executive Cabinet member sign an agreement that the employee is being put on leave. If the employee refuses to sign the form, Ramirez stated that the Executive Cabinet member could either terminate the employee or the employee should resign. In response, EVP Cortes stated that Ramirez’s claim was not correct. She stated, “For certain positions, the senate has to approve of a resignation.”
Sinclair went on to elaborate on the piece of legislation. She stated that almost every year, there is a disagreement between an executive branch member and one of their employees. She added that yearly, an executive branch member will tell the ASUCR Financial Operations Manager Amy Carrizosa that an employee’s pay needs to be suspended for a certain amount of time or indefinitely. She stated that nearly every year, nothing is submitted in written form.
“People cannot decide that they do not like the person they have employed and decide to not pay them,” stated Sincalir. She added that this bill is intended to protect employees. She claimed that employees who are told they are being put on unpaid leave need to have it put into writing for ASUCR’s payroll staff. She reiterated that if an employee does not agree to being put on unpaid leave, they should either resign or be terminated.
“This is not just the case for ASUCR. This is university policy … you have to have things defined in writing for fairness and to conduct payroll in a way that is approved by the university,” noted Sinclair.
In response to Sinclair, Gonzalez stated that he knows this bill was written in response to EVP Cortes’ decision to put former ASUCR Parliamentarian Avi Idea on paid leave. Idea was eventually replaced by the current parliamentarian, Grace Flannagan. Gonzalez stated, “I think it is unsettling that this piece of legislation was written in response to that situation … I understand the need to follow UC policy … I think it has been common that every time someone in the Executive Cabinet does something that seems suspicious or against the rules, there is always a piece of legislation in response to state that what we did was clearly wrong and to put us in our place. I don’t like the environment where if you think we did something wrong you shame us with a piece of legislation.”
Gonzalez noted that he did not know it was university policy to require that terminations, paid leaves, or other actions be put into writing and he “is sure” EVP Cortes was also not aware of the policy. “I wish that whoever is writing legislation is writing it not to just prove a point that you caught us … I get that sometimes we mess up and need to follow protocol but I think this piece of legislation puts elected officials in a hands tied situation. This forces the elected official to either work it out with the employee or fire them.”
Cortes also responded to Sinclair. She claimed, “Clearly this was not an issue before because when I put the parliamentarian on a leave of absence and I spoke to our financial operations manager, there was no requirement from Carrizosa or Laurie that I needed any signatures from myself or the parliamentarian.” She went on to state that all that was required was some form of documentation that they were taking a leave of absence. “Under what conditions do you expect someone who is taking a leave of absence to sign off on not getting paid?”
The debate continued with Sinclair stating that this bill was not written just in response to EVP Cortes’ decision to put Idea on unpaid leave. She stated that this situation also occurred last year and years in the past. “We need something in writing if we are told to hold pay. That has always been the way it is … it is really not fair to the person who is being told that their pay is being suspended to not have some sort of agreement in writing beforehand because then it is an abuse of power.”
“I’m not disagreeing with that, I just do not understand why a signature is required from both parties,” questioned EVP Cortes. In response, Sinclair stated that a written agreement is a courtesy. She reiterated that it is not fair to not have a written agreement. She stated that when a member of ASUCR resigns, it is the same case. A written statement must be sent to ASUCR professional staff in order to remove them from the payroll. She stated that when an Executive Cabinet member fires or puts an employee on leave then they must submit it formally in writing since the senate does not vote on firings or resignations. In response, Cortes stated, “That’s not true. The senate does approve resignations and firings.”
“Yes, but it does not always happen. I’m not saying just this year. It didn’t happen last year and it hasn’t happened in the past. This bill puts the policy in there so we don’t have to repeat ourselves every year about what we require for payroll,” stated Sinclair.
After approximately 20 minutes of debate, SB-S20: Addition of Section 11 to Chapter 8 Stipends and Regulations went onto a vote from the senate. The bill ultimately passed with a vote of 14-2-0.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:48 p.m.