Members of Student Congress Head to Ethics Committee: How the Hearings Describe the 94th Congress

Tuesday night, several members of Student Congress went to an ethics committee hearing in the basement of Gardner based off their actions during the recent ammunition bill that barely passed congress. Two members, Speaker Paige Comparato, and Speaker Pro-Tempore Connor Brady, had complaints issued against them. Speaker Comparato was charged with one count of misfeasance, while Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady faced with one count of misfeasance and one count of malfeasance. The following hearings that took place illustrate several personal issues, turned political, that plagued the 94th congress all year.

The first complaint hearing brought before the committee was a complaint against Speaker Comparato. The complaint alleges that the Speaker committed misfeasance by using a public listserv, which included members of Student Congress, the Supreme Court, and the media to attack the plaintiffs in the Student Supreme Court case. The case was filed by, Reps. Crayton, Aristy, McClelland, Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady, and Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club President Grant Anastas-King., in which the plaintiffs allege decimation against the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club. The complaint alleges that the Speaker used her capacity as the only one with access to the mailing list to “attack, defame, and intimidate the plaintiffs in a lawsuit pending against [Student] Congress.”

Rep. Crayton, who opened and presented most of the evidence for the plaintiffs pointed out in several places where the Speaker, in her email, attempted to intimidate the plaintiffs for the lawsuit against her in the Student Supreme Court. Some of the parts include, but are not limited to the part where she called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said that the filing members were trying to “intimidate” other members of congress. The main issue with the Speaker’s email, however, was that it made its way to several members of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice Jessica Womack, who had received an email relating to a separate case earlier this year, admonished her for actions similar to those she took over the listserv. In the email, the Chief Justice calls the Speaker’s contact “unsolicited,” and “inappropriate.” The Speaker claimed that she was just informing the other members of congress and the public about the lawsuit. She claimed that the public had the right to know and she was trying to inform people about what was occurring in congress. However, the plaintiffs were not objecting to the public’s right to know. They filed because the email was both intimidated and defamed other members of congress. For this, the Ethics committee, in a unanimous 5-0 vote, recommended to full congress that she be censured.

The incompetency of the Speaker during this congress has been overwhelmingly apparent. The trouble began back in the first semester when, after several meetings of full congress, about a dozen members of congress wrote open letters to her asking her to resign. This congress has been fraught with inconsistent procedure as well bitter infighting, which the job as Speaker is to help move congress along and try to hash out compromises. Instead, members complain about congressional business taking twice as long than in previous years, and many gaffes on simple procedural rulings.

After a recess for some Executive Branch appointments, the meetings resumed, but the passion was still high. Next on the agenda was a misfeasance charge against Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady for allowing a motion of the previous question to be passed without the needed 2/3 majority according to Standing Rules. Speaker Pro-Tempore Connor Brady defended his case by stating that he made a simple mistake in procedure due to the intensity and passion of the bill. No one on either side of issue tried to correct him. Rep. Root argued that this mistake constituted a misfeasance because the vote allowed the bill to be passed. Root’s argument faced one flaw in the fact that Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady voted against the measure, therefore he had no reason to want it passed. The Ethics committee agreed and vote in favor of dismissal on a 4-1 vote with Rep. Niver being the only dissent.

The last complaint filed was the charge of malfeasance, in which a person commits an error that has vicious intent of bad motives. Rep. Root alleged that the Facebook message between him and Pro-Tempore Brady was unethically sent out to members of the media, the Tar Heel Pistol and Rifle Club, and the listserv for Student Congress.

What Rep. Root forgets to take into account is that he is a member of Student Congress conducting business with another member of Student Congress. If members of congress, some whose egoism knows no bounds, want to be taken seriously, they must realize that when emails or messages containing business concerning congress are public record. According to Title 2, Chapter 5, Article 3, Section 520, Clause A of the Student Code “All officers, committees, or individuals appointed by the Congress or the Student Body President, or organizations receiving funding from any power of Congress fee are required to give to any committee of the Student Congress, upon request, all relevant information and all relevant data within their possession, or ascernable from their records.” Therefore, this message is ethically allowed to be released, because they are discussing congressional business.

Furthermore, Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady categorically denies sending it out maliciously. He sent the email of the message to Grant Anastas-King, President of the Tar Heel Rifle and Pistol Club to let him know what his members were dealing with. He himself did not explicitly send the message to other members. While Root tried to make the case that he maliciously sent it out, it cannot be made for the simple fact that Grant Anastas-King sent it over his listserv, only after members of congress had received it from other members of congress. Members of congress received directly from Rep. Braxton.

Rep. Root then made the  turned his attention to the story that I posted in both the YAF blog as well as the Carolina Review that contained the message between Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady and himself, and proceeded to call me out by name. For thirty minutes, my name was used on the floor of congress along with the organizations that published the article. He claimed that the story and the email sent out by Anastas-King were directly responsible for hate mail that he was receiving. During and after the meeting Speaker Pro-Tempore also asserts he knew nothing of the threatening emails that were received by Rep. Root at the time and was not provided to him before had so he could properly defend himself. Neither Grant Anastas-King nor I knew anything of the emails or their threatening nature. The committee in a 3-2 vote voted to censure Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady.

While I could not speak to the accusations made by Rep. Root, which tried to blame Grant Anastas-King and me for his misery and the truly terrible emails he received, I do understand his pain. First, I want to make a few things clear. I was at the vote on the ammunition bill, and saw the email with the Facebook messages on several members screens’. Then, after the vote, I read a DTH article which mentioned about email, so I contacted Speaker Pro-Tempore Brady as he was the presiding officer at the meeting and, since the message was public record, he forwarded it to me. Secondly, I truly understand Rep. Root’s pain. As a member of a conservative media on an extremely liberal campus, I understand hate mail, tweets, or intimidation more than most. A few examples, when writing an article once, I got a nasty email from an address similar to the one Rep. Root got. I have been screamed at in the pit for going to NRA meeting that I was going to kill babies. Another example is in 2008, when my father was running for office, his opponent’s husband threatened bodily harm to my father and my family. In addition, my father is a defense attorney, and on several occasion both while at court working with him and answering the phone at our home, I have been accosted and threatened. My family phone number is now unlisted. Thirdly, I stand by my decision to release the story. I contacted both Rep. Root and Rep. Rojas for comment, but got no response. The message is public record, and the people have a right to know about what their representatives are doing. Lastly, however, while I do understand Rep. Root’s pain and fear, welcome to the dark side of politics. I did not send that email. I do not know who sent the email, but I refuse to be smeared on the floor for something that I have no control over. If you take a stand, place a vote, or write an article on a controversial issue, then you, as a decision-maker, have to take the consequences for your actions: be they good or bad. Some people will fervently disagree with you, and will stoop to low levels to intimidate you, like smearing you in the house floor with no forewarning, nor a chance to reply. Sometimes they will say or write sinister things about you, but that comes with the territory. While I understand Rep. Root was upset at the email, he must understand that this is the unfortunate side, and as Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

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