Brown/Barreto SGA presidency under investigation by SGA Senate

Hollie Moore and Jenna Guzman

App State’s SGA Senate voted unanimously in their meeting Sept. 6 to investigate the 2022-23 academic year presidential elect Quson Brown and his vice president Alejandro Barreto.

The Senate held the meeting to discuss the actions of and concerns about the duo and their impacts on SGA and the student body. After discussion, the Senate voted by ballot whether or not the Student Senate Committee of Rules should conduct a formal investigation.

“The student body president and vice president have abandoned their oath and commitments to the constitution and students at this university for a little more than personal gain,” said Gabe ​​Montalbano, president of the SGA Senate.

Brown and Barreto said they were not told what would be discussed at the Senate meeting, and they were not told about the investigation against them until two days later, where they were informed about it via email. 

“Alejandro and I did not know that we were being accused of these things until we got, well, that email,” Brown said.

On Sept. 1 Brown sent an email to seven SGA members announcing an “immediate halt in current structural operations.” Attached was a document explaining his reasons as acting under “unethical and illegal version of the Constitution.”

Brown and Barreto both signed the document, one claim being that SGA’s current constitution violated “University Policy 3.2 Harassment: Communication or conduct (e.g. verbal, physical, electronic, written, etc.) that creates a Hostile Environment.”

This was predicated on completely logically inconsistent reasoning,” Montalbano said. “The student body president and the vice president clearly had no authority to make such a proclamation and the predicates on which this is based can only be sorted by the SGA judiciary through the rules committee.”

Brown said he thinks the SGA constitution should only be changed by following three steps:

  • Have “50 plus one percent” voting students vote on it. 
  • Getting a signature from the chancellor, board of trustees or their delegate.
  • Have a constitutional review process. 

All steps were required in the constitution previous to the current one. 

Montalbano said those are options rather than requirements.

“It just feels like every single time we come up with an idea that might effectively accomplish that goal, we’re met with a lot of resistance,” Barreto said.

During the discussion among the Senate, Montalbano said the duo’s actions may be a way to “avoid accountability for spending $5,000 of student money relegated to SGA.”

​​Montalbano said over the summer Brown began appointing people to more positions that “constitutionally there isn’t really any basis or argument for them.” He said the Senate president can create new Senate positions, but the student body president does not have the ability to create new cabinet positions.

Brown said there is no place in the constitution stating otherwise, and he believes each position was “beneficial at the end of the day.”

 Out of all the positions filled, Montalbano said Brown never appointed a treasurer — a position Brown said has yet to be filled.

“No one wants to come close to entering our association due to the current environment,” Brown said.

 Instead, Brown said a budget task force was created and is responsible for dealing with funds within SGA. 

In order to spend any SGA funds, the organization’s constitution requires an appointed treasurer, an SGA Senate budget and the Senate pro-tempore to sign off on all final expenditures from the treasurer. 

Montalbano said Brown did none of the three with the $5,000.

“That’s about a third of our budget, and that’s entirely student money,” Montalbano said.

Judy Haas, dean of students and advisor to SGA, said the academic year begins July 1 and ends June 30 each year. Brown and Barreto submitted their requests for funds in June, the requests not being filled until July. Haas said Brown and Barreto had no control over that. 

“It was not intentional, I can say that, the intent was to use up the leftover money from last year,” Haas said. “And because the amount was so high, that’s when I asserted myself into it and said ‘I think y’all need to make sure I know that you’re spending this money.’”

Brown said the money was spent on merchandise for tabling, items such as wallets for the back of phones, lanyards, buttons and more. 

A two-thirds majority vote from the Senate is needed to remove Brown and Barreto. If they are found guilty based on the Rules Committee’s findings, “the Senate shall be empowered to take any actions it deems necessary,” according to article five of the SGA constitution. 

Montalbano will take Brown’s place temporarily if both Brown and Barreto are found guilty, but Montalbano says he intends to immediately return to his current role.

“I don’t want to be the president, I chose to be the Senate president,” Montalbano said. “I care about this institution so much, and I care about the Senate itself, and what it can do for the students. I will return to this position as soon as possible.”

The investigation is ongoing and Hunter Clark, chair of the Student Senate Committee on Rules, said he welcomes any information that may help him in the investigation.

This story will be updated with more information as the investigation develops.