Ben Fung has resigned as Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), following an agreement resolving the recent case that Alexei Simakov, U3 Arts, recently filed with the Judicial Board (J-Board) against the SSMU Executives, Elections SSMU, and the SSMU’s Board of Directors.
In his petition, Simakov claimed that SSMU violated its constitution and bylaws by hiring Fung through improper procedures. Simakov and SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa released a joint statement on Oct. 30, announcing that as part of the agreement, SSMU would initiate a bylaw reform process.
“Without delay, the SSMU shall review the bylaws relevant to hiring Elections SSMU staff,” the joint statement reads. “Through its Legislative Council, the SSMU is committed to working, with the input of students, to address any existing uncertainties. The parties will cooperate to engage undergraduates in the reform process and to clarify the organization’s governing documents going forward.”
Following their resignations, Fung and Deputy Elections Officer (DEO) David Koots will serve as interim CEO and DEO respectively, during which a hiring period for the positions will be reopened.
Fung stated that the resignation was voluntary and that he and Koots will reapply to the positions of CEO and DEO.
“Neither of us were involved in the hiring process, but since the Petitioner’s concerns were based on how we were hired, we drew no issue with reapplying for the positions,” Fung said. “We volunteered to step down as we do not have personal stakes in Elections SSMU or the positions, and so that SSMU can move forward to clarify and improve the [hiring] process.”
Simakov’s interpretation of the SSMU bylaws, as stated in his J-Board declaration, was contested by the SSMU executives.
“The simple renewal of a contract does not require a recommendation from the Nominating Committee,” the Executive’s respondents statement to Simakov’s J-Board Case reads. “ByLaw Book I9 s. 2.2 [states that] ‘New Commissioners and Officers of the Society shall be hired on a yearly basis, prior to the commencement of the Fall term.’ Section 2.2 does not prohibit renewal of contracts and does not state the process in situations of renewed contracts [….] The CEO was not automatically rehired by the current or previous SSMU President. His renewal of contract was approved by the Executive Committee in accordance with the Constitution and Bylaws.”
As Simakov has agreed to drop the petition, the First Year Council elections and Building Fee referendum question will not be invalidated.
“The Elections SSMU team volunteering to resign does not affect SSMU referenda, elections, or the Society as a whole, because it was agreed in mediation that Ben Fung and David Koots will be CEO and DEO, respectively, in the interim,” Ayukawa said.
According to Ayukawa, SSMU sought to settle this matter without a full J-Board hearing due to the prolonged process that the case would involve.
“The reality of the matter is that Judicial Board cases and hearings demand time and resources, which the executives would prefer to put towards serving students and fulfilling our mandates,” said Ayukawa.
Simakov explained that his original intentions with the J-Board case were to seek invalidation of the Fall elections and referendum.
“What we wanted going into this situation was an annulment, or invalidation of the referendum, [and] by extension, an invalidation of the FYC elections,” he said. “On top of which we wanted an apology announcing the violation.”
Going forward, Simakov hopes his petition will lead to bylaw reform.
“What we want to see through these efforts is an objective and comprehensible set of bylaws,” he said. “We’re happy that Courtney and the executives did take the time to respond, and they were professional about it, and they didn’t dismiss us.”
—With additional reporting from Abraham Moussako
Click for full statements from the petitioner (Simakov) and the respondent (Ayukawa, on behalf of SSMU).