President steps down after vote of no confidence from council
By Amy Meyer and Jane Martin
Kaleb Hoffer resigned as president of the ASEWU on Nov. 28, according to a press release from the organization.
The ASEWU press release stated that Becca Harrell, the previous vice president, has taken Hoffer’s place, and Justin Filla, the previous student services representative, has filled the role of executive vice president.
In an Oct. 3 letter, Stacey Reece, director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, informed Hoffer that EWU police reports indicated that he may have violated sections of the student conduct code that prohibit abuse or harm of others and reckless endangerment.
Hoffer gave this letter to The Easterner along with another letter from Reece that modified his suspension. Reece informed Hoffer that he was allowed to attend classes, consult with faculty and attend disciplinary hearings. She prohibited him from attending events and other activities or working in the ASEWU office.
In a phone interview with The Easterner, Reece declined for legal reasons to discuss the exact charges that were dropped as a result from Hoffer’s Nov. 6 hearing. She did confirm that EWU found Hoffer not responsible for the allegations in this initial findings stage. The student who brought the complaint against Hoffer has filed an appeal, which forwards the case to Amy Johnson, the dean of students, for another look.
While the university has dismissed charges against Hoffer, he still faces charges of second degree assault (strangulation) in Spokane Superior Court. Hoffer’s pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 21 and trial for Dec. 31, according to court documents.
Reece said that the university reviews whether or not the student code is violated, and that other court proceedings and their findings are separate from the process at EWU.
In his resignation letter, Hoffer declared his innocence, but expressed his respect for the ASEWU.
Hoffer said that after EWU dropped the code misconduct charges he was free to resume his position as president. In his resignation, Hoffer said, “It became evident through the vote taken on Nov. 27 that my continued presence with this great team would be a distraction.”
According to Nick Fell, chief justice of the ASEWU Superior Court, Hoffer signed an agreement that he would return if the ASEWU gave him a vote of confidence. That vote took place after a student government work session on Nov. 27.
“[Hoffer] asked for this vote to see if ASEWU supported his return,” Harrell said. “I assure you that this vote was made completely with the students of Eastern Washington University in mind.”
Frank McNeilly, public relations specialist for the ASEWU, said that Hoffer presented the pros and cons of his return to the role of president and then the council debated the issue.
The council’s vote, including the court and presidential cabinet was 13 to eight against Hoffer’s return with one abstention, he said.
In a direct message on Facebook, Hoffer said, “The students … voted in the members who will take over in my absence and the students also voted on the constitution that outlines our succession plan. In this regard I believe ASEWU was justified in their actions.”
The ASEWU constitution and bylaws do not address a vote of confidence in the case of a president returning after a leave of absence.
The ASEWU is directed by the constitution to fill any open council position with an appointment from the president with a three-fourths vote approval by the council. In response to this requirement, the ASEWU announced that it will accept applications for the position of student services representative through Dec. 5 at 5 p.m.
According to McNeilly, the ASEWU did not notify the student body nor any outside organization, including The Easterner, before the meeting took place.
No Easterner reporters were present for the vote.
McNeilly was unaware of any prior president having charges brought against him or her and said that the constitution had no process for how to proceed.
Reece, who is also adviser to the ASEWU, said that while there were no governing documents that explained how to conduct this sort of business, all parties behaved maturely and the students were represented well. Reece added that the council decided that Hoffer should be paid during his leave of absence on the recommendation of Vice President of Student Affairs Stacey Morgan Foster.
Harrell said in an email that when the university suspended Hoffer, he was put on paid administrative leave.
“ASEWU felt that when the situation first came about, it was the most fair way to handle the situation. However, we did not expect the process to last as long as it did,” she said.
Harrell added that the ASEWU recommended to Hoffer that he quit drawing pay, but he raised legal questions.
Instead of pushing the issue, the ASEWU waited to see how his sanctions would resolve, she said.
Hoffer said that he continued to draw pay because the constitution required that employees in good academic standing be paid.
He added that since the university took action against him and not the ASEWU, he was concerned that a suspension in pay without a verdict would communicate a lack of support from the student government.
“I left the decision up to them as acting executives, and they decided to maintain paying me. Obviously, with my resignation came a suspension in pay,” he said.
Even if Hoffer is found innocent of assault charges in Spokane Superior Court, Harrell said she will remain ASEWU president.
“Nothing will change. [Hoffer] has resigned from his position,” she said.
“The changes with myself becoming president and Justin Filla becoming executive vice president will remain for the rest of the academic school year.”