Abella Accused of Mishandling Funds
March 24, 2005 7:10 PM
Associated Students Inc. President David Abella was accused of mishandling $1,250 by members of the board of directors during their last meeting on March 16, and may face legal action.
The issue stemmed when Abella mislead the ASI board and staff members when he told them in January that he would hire an outside consultant to conduct performance evaluations for full-time ASI staff. It was eventually discovered by the ASI board in early March that Abella hired the consultant to evaluate a single employee, not the whole staff.
In January, Abella established a contractual agreement with Valerie Edwards, an outside consultant, to conduct performance evaluations for full-time ASI employees and staff members. The agreement called for Edwards to be paid $125 an hour for a maximum of 10 hours of work. The spending of the $1,250 was never approved by the board and would have come out of the student-funded $3 million that the ASI controls.
One of the board members said they will take action to remove Abella from office, which would involve a lawsuit in Superior court.
The March 16 meeting also included a dispute on whether to terminate two other ASI board members for attendance violations.
Vice President of Internal Affairs Sergio Rodriguez added a cease-and-desist action item, which the board approved, to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting to prevent further consultation with Edwards. Rodriguez could not be reached for further comment.
In 2001, the board hired Edwards, currently a fieldwork consultant and lecturer for the school of social welfare at UC Berkeley, for a comparability study. The study compared the job responsibilities of ASI staff and employees with those at other California State Universities. Edwards could not be reached for comment by press time.
ASI Executive Director Peter Koo said he initially contacted Edwards last January to conduct what he believed would be a comparability study.
“I gave her the information that the ASI president wanted to meet with (her) first before (she) met with me,” said Koo. “So she came to campus and met with him but she never met with me. No phone call or e-mail or correspondence after that until March. When I thought that two months was a long time for her not to give us any information so I gave her a courtesy phone call.”
Koo said he made the call to Edwards in early March. “She said she’s not doing a comparability analysis, she was doing something else for the president and I asked her to fax over the material she was working on and she said ‘I can’t do that unless the president authorizes it.’”
According to the minutes for the March 2 ASI board meeting, Abella said that his deal with Edwards was not in fact a comparability study, but a performance evaluation for Executive Director Peter Koo.
The minutes also state Koo’s response, which was, “Thank you, since Mr. Abella went on record and stated he was working on a performance evaluation, I would also like the minutes to reflect that the conversations that I had with Ms. Edwards was specifically about the comparability analysis. This is the first time I’ve learned that this has turned into an evaluation, so since I did not enter a contract with
In a memo obtained by [X]press that Abella sent to the ASI board of directors on March 8, Abella agreed to assume all financial responsibility for his approved funding.
“I’ve made my mistake and it was a big one,” Abella said before the board during their meeting March
In the memo, Abella also stated: “After reviewing the ASI Bylaws after our March 2, 2005 meeting, I realized that my actions were out of order. When I entered into this agreement I overstepped my authorities as President/CEO of this corporation. Only the Board of Directors retains the authority to enter into a contractual agreement, such as the one I have disclosed ...
"Although this action took place in January, the Board of Directors did not delegate me the authority to act on behalf of the corporation; therefore I am at fault.”
In a separate memo sent by Abella on Nov. 22, 2004, he asked that all ASI employees submit desk audits to associate director Jamila Ali by Dec. 8. The desk audits were to determine whether all 22 ASI staff positions were properly classified. Abella stated in the memo that the evaluations were “not related to the yearly ASI performance evaluations” that usually occur in late November.
Ali said the evaluations Abella asked ASI staff to submit were never used by Edwards and are still sitting in her office.
Fowler, who also sits on the Internal Affairs Committee, said in mid-February she noticed that Abella had hired a “personal consultant” and questioned him about it.
“He didn’t have a response,“ said Fowler. “He was stonewalling people about it. He was trying to shift the focus of what was going on.”
According to the minutes for the March 2 meeting, Koo stated that he didn’t have a problem with a performance evaluation being conducted on him, but questioned it because one already exists for full-time ASI staff.
“We have an evaluation form that we have but he thought it was not sufficient enough so he wanted to change it, I guess,” Koo said.
Also in dispute at the meeting was a proposal to remove senior class representative Marisol Almaguer and science and engineering representative Jacqueline Fernandez for allegedly missing the first three board meetings. The fourth ASI meeting was held March 16, but it was the first meeting Almaguer and Fernandez attended.
Both board members received memos on March 15 informing them that the board would be reviewing their ASI employment.
Graduate representative and chief justice of the board Michael Trujillo sent the memo, which cited an old ASI bylaw that gives the board the authority to dismiss directors for “failing to attend two consecutive board meetings.”
However, the bylaw stated in the memo sent by Trujillo, “Article VII, Section 2: Article C,” does not exist in current ASI bylaws, but is an ASI policy. The inaccurate citing of bylaws in the memo initiated a dispute between Fernandez and Trujillo.
Current ASI bylaws do allow the board to dismiss members for failing to attend two consecutive meetings.
During the meeting, Trujillo admitted that he obtained the information from the ASI Web site, which he was then told contains bylaws that are two years old. Trujillo, who ran for ASI office with Abella on the Think P.I.N.K. slate in 2004, declined to comment after the meeting concluded.
Almaguer and Fernandez both said they have not attended previous meetings because of scheduling conflicts with their classes.
Almaguer, who said she is taking a dance class during the scheduled meeting times, is in her final semester at SF State. An English major and dance minor, Almaguer said she needs the class in order to graduate.
Fernandez, a biology major and chemistry minor, said she has a little more than a year to go to complete her bachelor’s degree, and said she sent an e-mail to Abella stating that her chemistry class would cause her to miss board meetings.
“If you are a board member you need to attend meetings," Abella said. "We all have class (and) we all have (other committee meetings). I forwarded a recommendation to chief justice (Trujillo) to look into (these attendance violations).”
But according to the current ASI bylaws, it is the duty of the corporate secretary to enforce the attendance policy. Fernandez is currently the corporate secretary.
“You want to remove two (board) members with 42 days left (in the semester) instead of focusing on the fact that our president David Abella committed fraud?” Fernandez said. “Why waste our time with petty stuff when Mr. Abella is our president and he’s committed fraud?”
Almaguer said she plans on taking action to have Abella removed as ASI president. According to the ASI bylaws, in order to “effectuate removal (of a director), (a) suit must be filed in the Superior Court of the County of San Francisco by (another) director.”
“I told (Abella) I was going to sue him,” Almaguer said.
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