SGA breaks spending rule for trip

Alan Blinder

A Student Government Association official admitted Wednesday that SGA leaders broke student government spending rules by paying more than $4,700 for five students – including four SGA leaders – to travel to California for a community service event scheduled around the BCS National Championship.

The Code of Laws that regulate the student government’s activities says that expenditures of more than $1,000 cannot be made without the SGA Senate’s approval.

The Senate, which has not met since November, did not approve the expenses.

In a phone interview late Wednesday night, SGA spokeswoman Anne Elizabeth Davis described the rule violation as “an inadvertent admission” and said that she knew of no immediate plans to implement changes to ensure the rule is followed in the future.

SGA President Steven Oliver did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the rules violation on Wednesday night. On Wednesday afternoon, Oliver denied that SGA officials did anything wrong in facilitating the trip and said no SGA funds were used to pay for any student to attend the game.

But Davis later said that the group the student government sent to Pasadena had used a van rented with SGA funds to travel to the Rose Bowl, the site of the game.

The purpose of the trip was a service event involving SGA officials and their University of Texas counterparts at the Union Station Homeless Services Adult Center in Pasadena.

The SGA provided funding for four leaders to travel to the West Coast: Executive Vice President Meg McCrummen; Vice President for External Affairs James Fowler, Executive Secretary Katie Breaseale and Vice President of Academic Affairs Tyler Reed. The student government also paid the travel expenses of Charlotte Brown, a UA student who works with the Community Service Center.

While the students did not purchase game tickets using SGA funds, their travel expenses – airline flights, hotel accommodations, and food – came from the group’s budget. In total, the SGA spent $4,742.95 for the trip, according to a document Oliver provided Wednesday.

Oliver defended the amount of money spent.

“My goal is to minimize the amount of cost on anything we do,” Oliver said. “I want us to be able to maximize all of our money.”

College of Engineering Sen. Ben Baxter, who attended the game in Pasadena, said he did not know of the travel plans for which the student government paid.

“I didn’t hear about this service trip until I was actually out there,” Baxter said.

Though SGA leaders did not follow the rules, Davis said she is confident that if the Senate had been in session when the trip was planned, its members would have voted to pay the expenses.

“We feel the Senate would have whole heartedly supported the service efforts,” she said.