The Student Association Senate voted unanimously to fine the UB Step Troupe $1,000 for mismanagement of funds and an illegal "petty cash" account at the senate's Monday night meeting.
UB Step Troupe was not present at the meeting to challenge the proceedings. Multiple attempts to reach its officers Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
According to SA Treasurer Naazli Ahmed, the student government learned of the petty cash when Melissa Sears, treasurer of UB Step Troupe, informed SA last semester that she had been arrested after club president Lilith Emdin accused her of stealing money donated by club members toward club activities.
The case against Sears in Amherst Town Court is still pending. Ahmed intended to propose a fine after Sears' trial was complete, but after it was postponed several times she proceeded to bring the matter before the senate.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Ahmed. "It took months to sort out this whole mess."
The SUNY Board of Trustees does not allow student clubs or organizations to hold separate accounts and requires them to deposit all funds into an SA account, said SA President Christian Oliver.
"If you don't deposit all the money into the [SA] account, it's too easy to walk away with it," said Oliver.
In addition, clubs are supposed to keep records of all transactions using Sub-Board-I receipts issued in the beginning of each semester. When Sears was accused of mishandling funds, Ahmed asked her to produce receipts proving she had used the money for club expenditures. The receipts Sears delivered to SA were not from Sub-Board I.
"The point is, they're not supposed to use petty cash whether it's for club reasons or not," said Ahmed.
Ahmed said Emdin alleges Sears stole "upwards of $500" while Sears admitted to using between $220 and $240 for "personal use," saying she would reimburse SA, an offer Ahmed refused to accept without consulting with legal aid. After speaking with a lawyer, the SA treasurer learned that by accepting Sears' reimbursement she would be admitting the money SA received was the actual amount Sears took from club funds.
Neither Emdin nor Sears can be considered reliable sources, said Ahmed, because no proper receipts can be produced and Sears has a tendency to "change her story a little bit every time."
"We have very sketchy documentation," the SA treasurer said. "I have no way to prove that money was mishandled."
Ahmed believes the reason UB Step Troupe created the petty cash "account" was because they might have wanted "easy access" to the funds. As treasurer, all clubs must obtain her approval before spending money, a regulation that ensures clubs plan for events in advance and manage their money responsibly.
"If I don't sign it, they can't spend it," said Ahmed.
Clubs have the option of appealing Ahmed's rejection of expenditures, an action she said is rarely taken because there are "very few things" she will turn away. Her only reservation would be clubs spending money wastefully on food or "taking friends out to dinner."
After consulting with the Student Wide Judiciary, SA made an agreement with UB Step Troupe that they would be fined $1,000 and complete 100 total hours of community service. Their budget is frozen pending the completion of the community service and if further mismanagement of club money is reported, UB Step Troupe will face derecognition.
The reason the entire club was held accountable for the executive board's misuse of UB Step Troupe money, Ahmed said, was because there was evidence club members knew about the p