The Student Association’s Board of Directors voted to suspend SA President Yousouf Amolegbe on Friday.
The vote came after SA’s Rules, Administration and Government Oversight Committee (RAGO) found Amolegbe guilty of nine SA policy violations, including alleged conflict-of-interest violations concerning his role as co-CEO of entertainment company RAGE Boyz, according to Amolegbe. Twelve BOD members voted to suspend Amolegbe, one voted against suspension and four abstained after roughly 40 minutes of deliberation, according to Hayden Gise, BOD chairperson. The Spectrum was not present for the vote. RAGO initially presented a report of the investigation to the BOD on Dec. 6, during its final meeting of the fall semester. The board authorized the investigation on Nov. 20. Amolegbe said he completed all of the board’s recommendations following the investigation, and said he will fight the suspension but is still deciding what actions he will take.
Now, Georgia Hulbert, SA vice president, and Kendra Harris, SA treasurer, will take over some presidential responsibilities, however, due to SA bylaws, other responsibilities can only be completed by the president. SA’s BOD did not tell The Spectrum the specific bylaws RAGO’s investigation found Amolegbe guilty of violating.
Amolegbe said RAGO –– a six-person committee consisting of BOD members Jaycee Miller, Janiece Rosado, Zach Graham, Gise, Jacob Kobler and Eric Weinman –– investigated conflict-of-interest violations, including arranging a performance from DJ Mike West, co-CEO of RAGE Boyz, at Spring Fest 2019 when Amolegbe was SA event manager. SA booked West for $300 for the 2019 Afro-Caribbean Fall Fest but did not invite West to Spring Fest 2019; instead he appeared as a guest. Amolegbe said RAGO also cited him for “failing” to disclose RAGE Boyz as a conflict of interest, dealing with a booking agent which they claimed was associated with RAGE Boyz, “failing” to disclose DJ Wire as a RAGE Boyz “affiliate” and arranging a collaboration between SA and RAGE Boyz; where Fivio Foreign would perform at SA’s 2019 Trap Fest and at a Rage Boyz event on the same night. SA would have paid $9,500 for the Trap Fest performance, which would cover Fivio Foreign’s transportation to Buffalo.
“Everything they claimed was conflict of interest, I was pretty open about and I never tried to hide anything. I was pretty honest about everything that I did,” Amolegbe said. “They found me guilty of conflict of interest on so many things that were not accurate.”
Gise said the BOD suspended Amolegbe to protect SA.
“The reason that we needed to suspend [Amolegbe] is because he could cause more potential harm to the organization by staying,” Gise said. “It’s not that we are worried about [Amolegbe] in terms of the law.”
Amolegbe denies all conflict-of-interest charges. He says SA hired West before his presidency and SA members knew of West’s association with Amolegbe. He says his CEO position at RAGE Boyz does not conflict with his SA position, and said the booking agent RAGO found to be associated with RAGE Boyz is not. Amolegbe also says RAGE Boyz is not affiliated with DJ Wire, who is “just a vendor” the company books.
DJ Wire is an on-air personality for Power 93.7 WBLK and has been hired by SA for events since at least 2015, four years before Amolegbe was elected as SA president, according to SA requisitions.
“It’s very bogus that if you say because DJ Wire plays at my event, you’re saying he’s an affiliate,” Amolegbe said. “You might as well tell me that I have to list Wegmans and Amazon because RAGE Boyz buys the same things from Amazon as SA does. … They said DJ Mike West is also known to be a business partner of mine, which I decided to tell them. It was very public and everybody knew and even for the Fall Fest where he performed, I refrained myself from signing his [purchase order].”
Amolegbe said he was “blindsided” by the suspension and believes the BOD “colluded” against him for personal reasons, as he was asked to leave the room during the vote. Amolegbe said he wasn’t given “due process” because discussing the investigation wasn’t on the BOD’s Friday agenda, but was included by one of the board members later on.
“I can’t just come into a meeting thinking I’m going to pass a couple of resolutions and a budget adjustment and next thing you know, I’m at a suspension hearing,” Amolegbe said. “That makes no sense.”
Amolegbe said if he knew the board was going to suspend him, he would’ve had his lawyer present.
Gise said the BOD did not need to include the discussion on its agenda because members can add items at “any time” with a majority vote. A member motioned to consider the topic and enter discussion and the motion passed, according to Gise.
According to the SA bylaws, Amolegbe can be reinstated with a 2/3 majority board vote.
Now, Harris and Hulbert have to carry out all presidential tasks in addition to their roles, although some tasks cannot be completed by anyone other than the president such as hiring and firing staff, calling an executive committee meeting and sitting on university boards. Nobody involved in SA will be able to complete these responsibilities until the bylaws are amended.
Hulbert wrote in an email that she and Harris will be able to approve contracts, SA and club expenditures and supervise office staff.
Hulbert voted for Amolegbe’s suspension, but said it should not disrupt SA operations.
“While the outcome of Friday night was unfortunate, I am confident in our Student Association professional and student staff to continue all operations as usual,” Hulbert wrote. “As for myself, I will be working around the clock to ensure that students see as little disruption as possible and will continue executing our campaign agenda.”
Hulbert declined to comment on why she voted for Amolegbe’s suspension.
Harris voted against Amolegbe’s suspension, and wrote in an email that she feels an “immense” pressure to “overextend” herself in order to fulfill both roles, especially since the spring semester is typically the busiest for the treasurer. She said if the BOD wanted to suspend Amolegbe, it should have been when RAGO presented its report at the Dec. 6 meeting.
“I believe it would have been in the best interest of the Student Association and the student body at large to suspend the president during a period that would not hinder the functions, programming and advocacy of the Student Association,” Harris wrote. “To suspend the president at the beginning of the semester does more harm than it does good for the organization as a whole.”
Harris said the board asked Amolegbe questions which were “invasive” and “unrelated” to his violations. Harris also said errors “took place leading up to and surrounding the suspension,” and that during the questioning period, board members directed testimonies of “hearsay” toward Amolegbe while he wasn’t in the room to defend himself, which she believes further influenced the board’s decision.
“I find it unethical that there was no discussion period surrounding the call for suspension, essentially stifling the voices of directors and their right to deliberation,” Harris wrote. “All in all, I believe the moments, questions and statements leading up to the suspension were incredibly biased and unethical and saturated in loose parliamentary procedure.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated RAGO had five members. RAGO has six members, including Gise.
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Julian Roberts-Grmela is a senior news editor for The Spectrum and an English and philosophy major. His favorite book is “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith and he hopes that one day his writing will be as good as hers.
Alexandra Moyen is the senior features editor of The Spectrum.