In what has become the UPUA controversy of the semester, the Board of Arbitration convened last night for a hearing to determine the fate of the two UPUA iPads purchased by Chief of Staff John Zang, ruling on Dray Krishnan et. al. v. John Zang et. al.
The defense, led by the fervent Anthony Christina, alleged that Zang violated UPUA Budgetary Policy and the UPUA Code of Practical Standards. President Courtney Lennartz and Chairman Spencer Malloy were also implicated because they authorized the purchase and did not report it to the assembly.
For more on the case, you can read our recap here.
The Board ruled that Spencer Malloy was guilty of violating UPUA Budgetary Policy 9.4.4, which states that all discretionary spending must be approved by a committee vote, which is ultimately the responsibility of the Chair. The Board also ruled that enforcing the UPUA Code of Ethics was outside of their purview, and neither Lennartz or Zang were found guilty of any violation. No sanctions were filed against Malloy.
In short, the UPUA iPads will stay.
“In my four years at University Park I have never found someone more dedicated to serving students than Spencer Malloy,” Chief Justice Ryan Thomas said while delivering the guilty verdict.
The central argument of the plaintiffs centered around the fact that John Zang had purchased two iPads totaling $1,057.88, which is in direct violation of UPUA Budgetary Policy 9.4.1. Policy 9.4.1 states that any purchase over $1,000 will need to brought to the floor through legislation. However, as it turns out, the order has not been processed through ASA and the total cost will be $998 after a tax exemption. The plaintiffs still argued that the Board should rule on what was on the receipt, not the actual cost.
The plaintiffs also argued that since the money for the iPads came from two different funds (the Chair Discretionary and Executive Discretionary), it is in violation of Budgetary Policy 9.4.3, which states that committees or the Executive “cannot pool funds together to avoid legislation before the assembly.”
When speaking for the plaintiff, UPUA Off-Campus Representative Anthony Christina pointed out that Zang had violated multiple parts of the Code of Practical Standards, which holds UPUA representatives to multiple ethical standards: “This case is about a matter of trust. A matter of trust that was broken.”
However, the defendant continually pointed out that the purchase was under $1,000 because any purchase on a Penn State purchase card is tax exempt.
“We have and will continue to respond to all suggest violations in the negative. Our defense is bolstered by a few key points — that the purchases was below $1,000, that it was done in good faith, that the iPads are distinctly not for personal possession and will, as repeatedly noted, be returned at the end of the legislative session,” said Malloy in his opening statement.
Throughout the cross-examination, it was quite apparent that the Board of Arbitration was skeptical of the defendant’s case. Justice Anthony Panichelli grilled Christina with a flurry of poignant questions, often vociferously interrupting Christina when he started to go off track. Despite numerous attempts, Christina was unable to prove that the purchase of the iPads had violated a Budgetary Policy.
Still, the defendants were disappointed that the case reached this point.
“The plaintiffs have had ample opportunity for discretion in the orchestration of this case. Instead, they have decided to pour countless hours into endless pseudo-judicial threats, specious legal jargon, and quite literally the most obnoxious and superfluous legal-ese and formatting of various documents that I can do little else but shake my head at the opportunity wasted for real work for the Association and the student body as a whole,” said an enthusiastic Malloy.
However, Christina was still pleased with the outcome. “We are extremely pleased with the board’s ruling, and we’re currently working on a solution to the board’s opinion in terms of rectifying the problem and addressing iPad usage,” said Christina.
In the end, the whole fiasco could have been avoided as the iPads are under $1,000 anyway after the tax break and technically didn’t violate any policies.
“We express our deep displeasure with the plaintiff’s continued desperation in forcing such an egregious waste of time for the membership involved and the organization itself,” noted Malloy during the hearing. “The sheer amount of time that the plaintiffs have put into this judicial effort is disturbing.”
In the future, it would be expected that something like this won’t happen again (as long as people file their expense reports). Then again, it’s UPUA, so who knows?