John Taylor Willis resigned Wednesday as Student Body Treasurer after a months-long impeachment process that only resulted in one hearing. Here is an overview of what happened, from the beginning.
Willis was elected the 2017-2018 Student Body Treasurer during Student Government elections for the 2017-2018 term. Results were announced on Feb. 28. Willis got 56 percent of the vote; his sole opposition, Priya Loganathar, received the other 44 percent. Willis was sworn in a month later on March 29.
Willis’ summer duties
According the five sponsors of the bill to impeach him, Willis failed to meet deadlines during the summer at the start of his term. They said in the bill that failure to meet these deadlines, which were self-imposed by Willis, qualified as neglect of duty, which would later be one of the charges against him in the bill.
Impeachment resolution filed
On Aug. 28, two weeks after the first day of classes, Student Senate President Pro Tempore Adam Schmidt filed the bill calling for the impeachment of Willis. Willis said that he first found out about the bill when Technician reached out to him for comment.
Willis and Schmidt spoke later that day, at which time Schmidt told Willis that the bill was a means of holding him accountable for his failure to meet deadlines.
In the bill was a charge of abuse of power, connected to claims by the bill’s sponsors that Willis had “created an environment in which certain members of Student Government feel unsafe and uncomfortable working in the Student Government Suite and in the organization.”
Student senators Gabrielle Dauntain, Sam Chan, Kate Puricz, and Rebecca Locklin were co-sponsors on the bill to impeach Willis.
Charge and punishment dropped in initial impeachment hearing
The Committee on Government Relations and Oversight (GRO), chaired by Ryan Dunn, held the initial impeachment hearing the week following the bill’s filing, on Sept. 6. At that hearing, they dropped the charge of abuse of power and lowered the punishment of impeachment to a formal warning in the form of a censure.
Technician removed from hearing
Technician was covering the hearing and was removed from the session before debate by the committee on the evidence heard from the sponsors of the bill and Willis. Technician reported that there was “no legal reasoning” cited by either the committee or Assistant Vice Chancellor Justine Hollingshead (who was acting as an advisor to the committee) for the removal of members of the student body from the hearing.
In the article about the removal, Technician also cited NC State Student Government statutes and North Carolina Open Meetings Law, implicitly questioning the legality of Technician’s removal from the hearing.
Technician and Student Media leadership attempted to meet with Dunn, Hollingshead, and Student Senate President Mitchell Moravec to discuss the removal, but no meeting is reported to have occurred yet due to scheduling conflicts and other delays.
Initial hearing nullified
After a month of inaction, GRO announced on October 11 that it would nullify the initial hearing and hold another in its place on a date that was to be determined.
Dunn and Moravec said they “erred on the side of caution” in the first hearing by avoiding matters they believed were to be exclusively handled Student Conduct (specifically relating to the language of “feeling unsafe” used in the impeachment bill). After a conversation with Student Conduct Associate Director Jess White, they said they were too cautious and prevented evidence from being heard that should have been permitted.
Delays in the scheduling of the second hearing had coincided with delays in scheduling between Dunn, Moravec, Hollingshead, Technician, and Student Media.
On Wednesday, Willis announced in a resignation letter that he would resign as Student Senate Treasurer, citing a desire to refocus on academics and stress caused by the impeachment process, ending the punitive process against him that lasted two months from initial filing of the impeachment bill.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Sean Harrington is Acting Student Body Treasurer in the wake of Willis’ resignation, and a special election to be held in the next 30 days will determine who fills the spot in a permanent capacity.
It is still unclear when and if Student Media, Dunn, Moravec, and Hollingshead will meet to discuss Technician’s removal from the initial impeachment hearing.