For an opinion on this issue, please refer to columnist Matt Sprague’s column.
Financial records obtained by the Review indicate that, over the course of their tenure as executives, former ASSU president Hershey Avula and vice president Mondaire Jones spent $13,000 on food and gas using ASSU discretionary funds.
According to one former ASSU official familiar with the executives’ spending habits, food was very often purchased for events that had little relation to official ASSU matters.
The majority of the expenditures on the part of the former executives were made from the ASSU’s Annual Discretionary Expense Account, a special reserve fund established by the Joint Bylaws of the ASSU and limited to $10,000.
Though the bylaws, the laws governing the ASSU’s finances, do not specify for what discretionary funds may and may not be used, they do forbid personal use of ASSU funds, stating, “All funds expended by the Association shall be used for the basic operating expenses of the Association, or for programs initiated by and under the control of the Association and its agencies.”
Despite the fact that discretionary funds are restricted to use for ASSU functions such as providing food for meetings, many of the over 300 credit card transactions detailed in the financial records were for relatively small monetary amounts.
Forty-five of the expenditures were for sums under $10, and 95 of the expenditures were for sums under $20. Almost all of these transactions took place at such dining establishments as Taco Bell, In-N-Out, McDonald’s, Subway, The Axe and Palm, Pizza My Heart, and Quiznos.
The records also detail nearly $1,500 of gasoline expenditures on the part of the executives, an amount that translates to roughly 5,000 miles of driving—5,000 miles presumably for official ASSU affairs.
Also of note is a transaction for $676.87 at Sundance Steakhouse in Palo Alto. The description listed for the transaction characterizes the event as “Dinner for 9.”
Furthermore, the financial records demonstrate that when the credit card-swiping executives depleted the discretionary expense account, the two began spending from another discretionary account set aside to fund the ASSU’s shuttle program.
According to ASSU Financial Manager Matt McLaughlin, the Office of General Counsel and Internal Audit of the University were notified and consulted regarding the expenditures. The internal investigation came to a standstill, however, due to the broad nature of discretionary spending and Avula and Jones’s claim that they were not able to recollect the specific nature of their expenditures.
McLaughlin, who is specifically concerned with the legal questions surrounding the expenditures, maintains that it is out of his purview to judge the ethical nature of the executives’ spending.
In an email to the Review, ASSU president David Gobaud stated that all of the financial transactions for the current ASSU executives are to be posted online at the end of every quarter.
Though all of the ASSU’s financial records are public information, financial data can currently be obtained only by contacting officials within the ASSU’s financial management system. The complete financial records obtained by the Review and referenced in this article can be viewed online at the Review’s website, www.stanfordreview.org.
For detailed records, please click here.