Missing information in SGA minutes raises question of conflict of interest 

Editor’s note: this article was updated as of 6:34 p.m. on March 11

A regular day of interviews for the Appointment Advisory Committee on July 28, 2023 turned into a point of interest when the chief justice said he was romantically involved with one of the interviewees.   

SGA’s Chief Justice Zach Terradez, one of the four members on AAC at the time, said that he was in a relationship with Amanda Ford, an individual whose interview was approved for the senator of business position at the July 28 AAC meeting.

The Appointments Advisory Committee, the committee in charge of interviewing candidates for unfilled SGA positions, conducted two interviews for the senator of business position. One of these interviews was approved by the committee and sent on to the senate, who makes the final decision to appoint the candidate.  

On July 28, the AAC minutes state there were two candidates that applied for the senator of business position, one of which was denied, the other approved.  

In a following meeting on Aug. 2, the minutes state they denied another interview for the senator of business position. 

While the minutes do not include the names of the interviewees, it was confirmed by Student Body President Axel Brown that Ford was the senator of business interviewee who was approved on July 28.  

The relationship brings up questions about conflict of interest and if SGA’s bylaws and constitutions have been broken, or if SGA is ensuring the relationship does not interfere with SGA-related matters.  

For the July 28 and Aug. 2 AAC meetings, the minutes were posted on Nov. 30, according to Mountain Lion Connect. 

For a summary of events, click here.  

Statements from Chief Justice Zach Terradez and Director of Finance Amanda Ford

In an interview in November of 2023, SGA Chief Justice Zach Terradez used his relationship with Amanda Ford as an example of how to avoid a potential conflict of interest. 

“When Amanda Ford was applying for senator of business this year, we were dating. So, I removed myself from the whole thing during her segment. In fact, the whole senator of business [decision], so I didn’t see any of the applications, and that’s because it wouldn’t be fair for me to not rule on hers but rule on someone else’s, so I just removed myself from the whole situation,” Terradez said.  

While Terradez said he removed himself entirely, the minutes for July 28 and Aug. 2 state that he was present, and there is no mention of recusal. 

According to article 10.E.2.D in SGA’s bylaws, 51% of the voting members on AAC are required to meet quorum. 

At the time, there were only four voting members part of the AAC: Brown, Student Body Vice President Aidan Clark, Terredaz and former director of finance Ian Sachs. Sachs was absent for both the meetings where the interviews for senator of business occurred.  

This means if Terredaz left for the senator of business interviews at the July 28 and Aug. 2 meetings, then AAC would not have met quorum for the confirmation of Ford, as there would only be two out of four voting members present. 

There are two possible outcomes of the meetings in question: Terredaz remained present at the meeting, fulfilling quorum and creating a conflict of interest in voting, or Terredaz left the meeting, violating the article that required quorum to be filled – therefore making the meetings moot. 

In an email sent on March 4, Ford clarified by noting that Terradez had abstained from the July 28 and was planning to for the Aug. 2 AAC meetings, meaning he was still present for both meetings but did not vote on the senator of business interviews. The minutes do not mention Terradez abstained, but Ford said he was present to meet quorum.

She included an email sent by Brown on Aug. 1 where he noted that there were two votes in favor of her moving forward to senate and one abstain. The names of who voted were not included, and Ford said both her and Terradez do not know if there is an official record of the vote or a recording of the meetings.

“Axel Brown knows he recorded the minutes incorrectly, and did not share that information with the Scribe,” Ford wrote in the email.

She does not know why Brown and Clark had stated Terradez had recused himself (see their comments below).

The three outcomes could have been avoided had the AAC met for the senator of business positions eight days later on Aug. 10 because there were more voting members on AAC at that point. Ford stated it was Brown’s decision as the chair of AAC to host the meetings.  

Terredaz did not reply when asked twice for a follow-up interview asking for clarification.  

Prior to March 4, Ford was also asked twice for an interview and declined both times.   

Statements from Student Body President Axel Brown and Student Body Vice President Aidan Clark 

Student Body President Axel Brown and Student Body Vice President Aidan Clark both said they knew of Terredaz’ and Ford’s relationship since November of 2023, but Brown also said he spoke with Terredaz before the July 28 AAC meeting regarding his relationship with Ford.   

“We were under the impression that something may exist,” Clark said.  

When asked if they were aware of their relationship at the time, Brown said they were not. Clark said they had a feeling that a relationship could have existed, which is why they had a conversation with Terredaz before the meeting, but they did not know for certain.  

“It was a conversation, not behind closed doors, but it was a conversation about how we could move forward knowing that [the] relationship may exist,” Brown said.   

Brown and Clark confirmed that Terredaz was present for the July 28 AAC meeting, but they said he left the meeting to recuse himself, which happened over Zoom, once the interviews for the senator of business position began.   

For the Aug. 2 AAC meeting, Brown and Clark said that the interviewee for the senator of business position did not show up. “It was denied because it wasn’t conducted,” Brown said. “We waited for 15 minutes then closed the meeting.”  

When asked via follow-up email why Terredaz was present for the Aug. 2 meeting when the senator of business interview was the only item on the agenda, Brown and Clark did not respond.  

At the end of the Fall 2023 semester, Terredaz was present for an AAC meeting on Nov. 30, where a director of finance interview was denied, and Ford was interviewed for the position at a later meeting. This could be because Ford was not a candidate at the time of the meeting. On Dec. 5, Ford’s interview was approved for the director of finance position. The minutes state Terredaz was not present for the Dec. 5 meeting.  

“It doesn’t say [Nov. 30 meeting] excused, although he was excused on the other, and that was our bad because we had, like, six hours of interviews, but I have a written version that says he’s excused,” Clark said. “So, we’re working on getting that fixed once that was brought to our attention, we didn’t notice it.” 

Clark added that “if anyone requests it, I have [a] written record of every vote we’ve taken and who voted what.” 

 “I can verify it. I don’t know if I’m going to turn [the recordings] over. I can send you probably, like, a picture. A full recording? Probably not,” Brown said.  

When asked twice via follow-up email for any way to verify that Terredaz was not present for the mentioned AAC meetings, both Brown and Clark did not respond.  

In an email sent on March 5 by Clark, he said the recording for the July 28 meeting experienced a technical glitch halfway through their discussion, which forced the recording to end without their knowledge.

He also noted in the email the Nov. 30 meeting was not recorded but included a picture of his written records where it notes Terradez was excused.

While the picture noted he was excused, the start and end time for the meetings do not line up with the times in the minutes. Clark’s picture notes the start time was 3:31 p.m., but the minutes state it was 3:06 p.m. The end time in the picture notes it was 5:21 p.m., but the minutes state the meeting ended at 3:49 p.m.

In the July 28, Aug. 2 and Nov. 30 AAC meetings, the names of the individuals being interviewed for the positions of senator of business and director of finance, and the votes of the AAC members along with who they voted for, were not recorded. In other AAC minutes (Aug. 10 for example), the names of the candidates and the votes are recorded (see Rank’s comments below).  

Brown and Clark both said sometimes they do not record the names of the people being interviewed or who voted for them to avoid drama for both parties.  

“When it comes down to something as strenuous as the director of finance position, we are going to tend to be more confidential with things because we want to protect applicants,” Brown said. 

“It’s not for us, it’s to ensure that the candidates who do not get the position have protection. It would suck if you didn’t get a job, and then everybody in the school knew you didn’t get that job,” Clark said.   

Clark and Brown also mentioned that the minutes are structured on a meeting-by-meeting basis, which can lead to inconsistency. “We pass around the minutes, and different people write them,” Clark said.   

Article 3.4.F in SGA’s constitutional bylaws states, “the names of the members who voted in any motion must be recorded along with their vote.” Brown said AAC does not follow this because a motion does not have to be made for a vote in the meeting (see San Souci and Rank’s comments below).  

“AAC has no governing guidelines … if something is easier said than done than others—that’s how we’ll operate,” Brown said. He noted that the chair, who is Brown, is in charge of making guidelines for AAC.  

Statements from SGA Co-Advisor Noelle San Souci  

SGA Co-Advisor Noelle San Souci said a conflict of interest is defined by a student having relationships and commitments outside of SGA that interfere with their responsibilities within the organization.  

San Souci noted that, while it is not enforceable, it is best practice to recuse yourself in situations with a potential conflict of interest. 

San Souci specifically pointed out that members are expected to recuse themselves from voting in AAC if they are friends or romantically involved with the person they are interviewing. Brown and Clark agreed. 

She added that each member of SGA is required to complete extensive viewpoint neutrality training. A portion of the training covers when it is appropriate to recuse yourself from a vote.   

This expectation is not enforceable because it isn’t written explicitly in the SGA bylaws and constitution.  

As stated in Article 3.B.1 of SGA’s bylaws, SGA adheres to Robert’s Rules of Order, a parliamentary procedure used in many governing bodies. Under section 45:4, Robert’s Rules states “no member should vote on a question in which he has a direct personal or pecuniary interest not common to other members of the organization.”     

In the minutes, there is no specification on if or when Terredaz left, nor is there a recording of the votes. San Souci said she had heard from Brown, Clark and Terredaz that he recused himself, but did not know for sure because she wasn’t there and could only go off the minutes and what she was told.  

While not required, she said it is best practice to record when a member leaves the meeting in the minutes, which is done for SGA’s senate meetings.  

San Souci said it is best practice for the minutes to include the names of the people who have been interviewed, and that vote recording guidelines require a record of the votes and names of the voters. She stated it is required for one designated person to be in charge of writing down the AAC minutes, and that it is important to do so for the sake of transparency. 

San Souci believes that while it isn’t enforceable, it’s important to abide by expectations and best practices, which she talks about during the required training and one-on-one talks that she tries to have with every new member of SGA.  

Outside perspective from Lindsie Rank at Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression  

Lindsie Rank, a student counsel from the Student Press Freedom Initiative, weighed in on the typical procedures when the matter of quorum and minutes are in question. 

“You just don’t have the meeting if you can’t meet quorum, or you come up with a way to meet quorum. So, it’s highly unusual that they [AAC] would proceed without quorum,” Rank said.  

Rank noted that she would expect quorum to be maintained throughout the meeting, saying, “In most governmental meetings, if you lose quorum, the meeting would be over because you can’t continue to go about conducting government business if you don’t have a quorum.” 

“Essentially, they’re doing quasi-governmental business here,” she said.  

Colorado’s Open Meetings Law states minutes must be “promptly recorded” following a public meeting, and the minutes are to be open to public inspection. Rank noted that while there is not much legal precedent in Colorado about what “promptly recorded” means, she expects a reasonable time to be shortly after approval of the minutes.  

This would mean the July 28 and Aug. 2 AAC minutes were not “promptly recorded” because they were published on Nov. 30, according to MLC. 

Rank noted the Open Meetings Law is completely policed through the courts system, meaning it is reliant on an individual to sue the governmental body that allegedly broke the law. The courts could potentially reverse the decisions the governmental body made at the meetings in question or just say they can no longer violate the rule in the future. 

Rank also said in an interview that it is common for minutes to note when someone recuses themselves from a vote or if they’ve left in a meeting.  

 “For transparency purposes, the AAC and SGA should absolutely err toward over inclusivity in their minutes rather than under inclusivity,” Rank wrote in an email. “I’ve frankly rarely seen student government minutes as skin and bones as some of the AAC minutes.” 

“Usually, the minutes should include any important moments that happen in the meeting. So, someone stepping out of the room and no longer participating, I would expect to be an important moment,” she said.   

SGA’s constitution states in article 2.A that “Students shall have the right to an accessible, open, just, competent and equitable representative student government, and shall have free and independent access to SGA information as it pertains to matters of governance.”   

Rank said the article seems to be a commitment to transparency, meaning SGA should commit to openness in instances of accessing documents and recordings. 

Repercussions within SGA  

If an SGA bylaw or constitution is violated, then any UCCS student body member can bring it to the Judicial Board for a judicial review, which will then decide what to do next, as stated in the Judicial Board’s bylaws. All final decisions shall be written by the Chief Justice or a designee.   

Violation of the constitution and bylaws can also be an impeachable offense. Impeachment proceedings must be initiated and conducted by the senate, according to SGA’s constitution.  

Since their statements, Associate Chief Justice Savoy Garey mentioned that AAC and the Judicial Board are reviewing the minutes for the 2023 academic year to ensure they are accurate before being archived at the Jan. 25 SGA meeting. 

In an email sent by Clark on March 5, he noted that the executive council, which is composed of Brown, Clark, Ford and Terradez, voted for Terradez to lead the minute audit that would correct the minutes.

TLDR: Potential Conflict of Interest  

  • Terredaz says he recused himself from the July 28 and Aug. 2 meetings, minutes reflect he didn’t. 
  • Quorum requires 51% of voting members present at time of meeting; if Terredaz recused himself quorum was broken, and if he voted, it’s a conflict of interest. 
  • SGA’s Co-Advisor Noelle San Souci says it is required to designate one person to record the minutes. 
  • San Souci and SGA’s handbook says it is required to record the names of who voted for what’s in the minutes, and the minutes in question did not have that. 
  • Colorado’s Open Meetings Law states minutes must be promptly recorded and made public (July 28 and Aug. 2 minutes were not published until Nov. 30). 
  • Student Body President Axel Brown and Vice President Aidan Clark say there were both video recordings and written record of the votes and meetings that could verify Terredaz’ presence, but declined to share them with The Scribe. 

SGA Graphic by Olivia Nordyke. Timeline Graphic by Raven Sanchez.