Breaking News – UCF Overturns Catholic Senator’s Impeachment

24 10 2008

I am amazed and ready to talk, jump right in if you feel so moved . . .

Embattled senator vindicated
Battle goes back to Senate following appeal

By Shaun Bevan
Posted 10/24/08

On Wednesday, the UCF Student Judicial Council overturned the Student Government Association Senate’s decision to remove Sen. Webster Cook from office.

Cook, who was embroiled in controversy after an incident with the Catholic Campus Ministries, was removed from office Aug. 28.

The council determined the impeachment hearing did violate due process laws and remanded the case to the Senate.

. . .According to Title VII statute, the accused has the right to cross-examine witnesses and refute any charges or evidence.

Since Cook was not present during the witness testimonies and one witness, Campus Catholic Ministry assistant minister Joshua Swallows, was not available to attend the impeachment hearing, Cook was unable to cross-examine Swallows and could not refute the witness’ testimony.

Because Swallows was not available, Peterson advised the Senate to weigh the testimony “appropriately.” Cook also said he felt the impeachment hearing was rushed because of a supposed time limit.

The hearing lasted four hours and ended minutes before 11 p.m. Former Senator and witness Benjamin Collard said during the hearing that the Senate Speaker rushed the final vote. Coffey said she was surprised at how quickly the Senate reached the vote.

Peterson said he was merely informing the Senate that 11 p.m. was approaching, as he does in every meeting. Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Cowap said the time notices did not put the senators under pressure to vote. If the hearing was to go past 11 p.m., the hearing would have been recessed until another session.

Cook also argued the validity of Anthony Furbush being able to speak during the impeachment hearing. Furbush was one of the individuals who had filed the affidavit against Cook. According to statutes, the Senate may question only the accused, evidence, witnesses or LJR committee members. Furbush did not fall under any of these categories.

The Judicial Council declined to comment on how they came to their decision and will release information within 48 hours.

“I don’t know the exact details of the process, so those will be necessary before I can give you a comment,” Cook said. “I’m not sure if the hearing will be heard by the new Senate or if it will be a lame duck session with the old Senate. If so, I think that will have a big impact on the outcome.”

Peterson and Cowap declined to comment on the council’s decision.

You know how I see larger power of story in everything political and religious, and especially where they cross.  So here’s what I remembered and connected, which looks prescient in light of partisan political attacks in the news now:

“I think there’s also a growing discontent with what the religious have done in politics. The Bush administration is a perfect example of political cronyism and political advocacy built largely on the support of the religious right, and look where it’s gotten us.

People are disillusioned. . .
We’re going to see an increasing weakness of the church. This is them lashing out. It’s a d[esper]ate ploy to be relevant and to be important again… They’re looking for somebody to take their ire out on.”

PZ Myers, Pharyngula blog owner, UM biology professor and former Lutheran altar boy

*****

So political or religious, real or symbolic, “disrespectful” behavior could get you killed these days!

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4 responses

3 11 2008
JJ

Well, hell if I know what this MEANS but here’s the latest um, news?

OrlandoSentinel.com
U-NEWS IS REPORTED AND EDITED BY JOURNALISM STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
Impeached UCF senator in Communion wafer controversy won’t get a new trial

Robyn Sidersky

Special to the Sentinel

5:16 PM EST, November 3, 2008

It appears that the UCF student senator impeached over leaving a Catholic Mass on campus with a Communion wafer in his pocket won’t get a new trial, despite a recent judicial council decision that due process was violated in the case.

Aida Latorre, attorney general of the Student Government Association, issued an opinion last week saying the 41st Senate cannot hear business left over from the 40th Senate. She cited Robert’s Rules of Order, the official guide for interpreting SGA statutes.

The rules state, “One session cannot tie the hands of the majority at any later session, except through the process of adopting a special rule of order or an amendment to the bylaws.”

Also, because Webster Cook, the impeached former senator, no longer holds office, the 41st Senate doesn’t have jurisdiction to pursue a second impeachment trial of an official in a previous Senate session, according to Latorre.

Cook, reached Monday for comment, said: “I’m relieved that I don’t really have to deal with that organization anymore, and unfortunately I feel like I’m right back to where I was before.”

Latorre also recommended that the impeachment statutes be revised to ensure that student rights are upheld and that the integrity of due process is maintained.

After a five-hour hearing on Oct. 22, the judicial council voted 8-0-0 that due process was violated in Cook’s case.

The controversy started in June when Cook allegedly took a Communion wafer from a Catholic Campus Ministries service and caused a commotion when a CCM official tried to retrieve the wafer from him. The impeachment wasn’t solely based on his actions, but in the way he represented himself as an SGA official, the Senate ruled.

Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel

4 11 2008
NanceConfer

“We screwed up but there’s nothing we can do to fix it.”

Nice out.

Nance

4 11 2008
JJ

It would make a good coming-of-age story, maybe a musical imo, it’s got everything — politics, religion, envy, hatred, ambition, conspiracy, legal drama, youth, beauty, humor, fight scenes, buddy scenes, and the ready-made school and church sets. Palm trees and stained glass?

6 11 2008
JJ

There will be no new trial — again, whatever that means in practical effect.

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