Charges Against NMT SGA Pres.
Recently, demands that President Talamante of the SGA be brought to disciplinary action were brought up by the Vice President Standiford and a few senators. The accusations are grounded on President Talamante rewarding himself and a few executive cabinet members (not including the Vice President…) single time pay bonuses at the end of the 2017 Fall Semester, labeled as “salary adjustments”. The money for this came from the SGA Account “SA Salaries and Pay”, which had a surplus from SGA employees being hired late in the semester, and unable to fulfill their complete contracts (further reasoning is provided later). President Talamante’s decisions were not in conflict with the NMT SGA Constitution, and the charges were dropped on February 13th’s Senate Meeting. However, this conflict does bring up a few noteworthy points, no matter how civil its outcome.
In full disclosure, Paydirt is subset of the SGA. Content providers of the magazine, such as yours truly, are employed by the Editor in Chief, who is employed by the President. If you think it’s strange or perhaps unethical that a paper is funded by a government (no matter how small), it’s because it probably is. In fact, the Editor in Chief was one of the members who received a salary adjustment, making it even more critical for content providers to remain as objective as possible in reporting. That being said, this article isn’t taking sides on this issue, it’s merely attempting to state the facts and opinions behind the people involved.
First of all, the rationale behind the salary adjustments and call for disciplinary action need explaining. To begin with, executive cabinet positions are paid by salary, not hourly. Salaries are calculated as if the employee works a fixed amount of hours for a fixed hourly rate, which of course never happens. At the beginning of last semester, the Chief Finance Officer and the President asked executive cabinet members to keep track of their hours, expecting that they would surpass the estimate their salary was based off of.
According to a report written by the President, another reason for the salary adjustment is that executive cabinet members are underpaid. According to a letter written to the senate, “There are weeks during the legislative session when my employees and I [President Talamante] will work upwards of 60 hours [a week] writing proposals, calling state legislators, testifying before committees, traveling to Santa Fe, all while performing a host of other tasks to keep the SGA running. The flexibility and student engagement our salaried positions afford us would not be possible with a conventional position.” If you’re getting paid for the job instead of hourly, working extra hours isn’t anything new. An underpaid staff is likely.
At the end last semester, they found that executive cabinet members worked an average of 4.5 hours a week more than what their salaries allotted for. They were then paid accordingly, each receiving an average of $530 at the end of the semester. The highest was $800, and the lowest was $300.
This, obviously, raised some issues. According to the accusing letter written to the SGA Supreme Court and Senate, “At the end of the Fall 2017 academic session, President Talamante, in conjunction with other members of the executive cabinet, made the decision to award unspent funds to themselves as one time payments. Not only was this decision taken without the approval of the Senate finance Committee or any presentation to the Senate, it was intended to be deliberately withheld from the Senate until the end-of-semester Spring 2018 budget meeting.” Whether the accusations of motivation are true or not, the subject wasn’t brought before the Senate.
According to some sources not involved with either party, the main issue here is the lack of transparency. The proposed salary adjustments were not brought up in front of the Senate, and despite being constitutional it's a question of ethics. According to some sources, the rewards were reasonable but it’s the matter of it not being brought to the Senate.
At the senate meeting on February 13, the chief justices deemed the actions by the President and the executive cabinet constitutional and within the President’s power, and determined that disciplinary action was unnecessary. However, a conversation about the government’s transparency and its policies may be needed, especially before elections.
In a sudden and theatrical turn of events, Vice President Sean Standiford is now up for disciplinary action on some truly compelling charges. A memo from President Talamante lists five charges, and requests that Vice President Standiford be brought to disciplinary action. The drama continues…
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