Sophomore Justin LaPoten, who lost his vice presidential candidacy for Student Government Association and legislative seat late Monday night, said Tuesday that he wants reimbursement for his campaign expenses after he was removed from SGA for poor attendance at meetings. LaPoten’s name was removed from the SGA ballot Monday – the day before elections – after the SGA Judicial Board unanimously upheld a decision to remove LaPoten from SGA because of three unexcused absences at House meetings and poor attendance to committee meetings.
Elections began midnight Monday and end today at noon. LaPoten said he is upset that SGA took so long to bring up the issue, adding that he believed if the problem had been caught three weeks sooner, SGA and he could have worked out an arrangement so he could have remained in the electoral race.
“Someone dropped the ball, and there was negligence, and I paid a price for it,” LaPoten said.
He said he will seek about $450 compensation for campaigning expenses from SGA.Speaker of the House Haley Murphy said the attendance report she received Monday revealed LaPoten had three unexcused absences for weekly House of Representatives meetings. Murphy said she then contacted the Finance Committee, to which LaPoten belonged, and discovered he had attended only one committee meeting all semester. According to the Student Body Code, four unexcused absences at House meetings is basis for removal from SGA, but Murphy said the three unexcused absences to House meetings combined with LaPoten’s poor attendance to committee meetings gave SGA reason to remove him.
Murphy said committees have no roll call sheets, and the Finance Committee did not report LaPoten’s pattern of absences.
“The real work of House gets done in the committees, and for him not to attend any shows a lack of dedication,” Murphy said.
Murphy said she expects SGA to draft legislation to enforce roll call in committee meetings to prevent similar situations from happening again.
Joey Parr, chair of the Elections and Regulations Committee, said LaPoten’s breach of the Student Body Code was not an election code violation, but because he was removed from SGA, he automatically lost his candidacy.
Murphy said SGA’s administrative assistant presents attendance reports every two weeks, but Monday’s attendance report was one week late. Murphy said the last time she reviewed an attendance report was Oct. 20, when records showed LaPoten had two unexcused absences. House minutes show LaPoten’s third unexcused absence occurred Oct. 21, she said.
LaPoten, who filed for candidacy Oct. 27, had already been sent a warning about his first two unexcused absences, recorded Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, Murphy said. Murphy said LaPoten was notified about his removal from SGA and subsequent removal from candidacy immediately after she made the decision based on the attendance report Monday.
LaPoten said classes and other commitments kept him from attending committee meetings, adding there was miscommunication with the committee. He said he could have been present at the Oct. 21 meeting, but was not certain because such a long time has passed.
“Let’s say I did miss it. I would have been notified, I could have dealt with it, we could have talked about it instead of five hours before running for vice president for SGA, I’m kicked out,” LaPoten said.
Rusty Roeger, member of the Judicial Board, said LaPoten appealed Murphy’s decision to the Judicial Board, which convened 9 p.m. Monday for a hearing. Roeger said LaPoten told the board he recalled being at the Oct. 21 meeting, but he could not present evidence to back his claim. In addition, LaPoten had the chance to reject minutes for the Oct. 21 meeting, when he was marked with an unexcused absence, but he approved those minutes in the following meeting Oct. 28, Roeger said. LaPoten told the board he did not look at the minutes before approving them, Roeger said.The three absences combined with the absences to committee meetings prompted the Judicial Board to uphold the speaker’s decision to remove LaPoten, Roeger said.
Staff reporter Matt Syme contributed to this report.