In a further blow to ASSU credibility, the Review has learned that the 2008-09 Senate credit card was revoked after a failure to provide documentation for purchases and the misuse of the credit card for personal expenditures.
After any student makes a purchase using a student group credit card, documentation such as a receipt must be provided along with the monthly statement in order to verify the legitimacy of the expenses. ASSU Financial Manager Matthew McLaughlin confirms that this documentation was never provided by then-Senate Chair Eutiquio (Tiq) Chapa ’10 for any of the seven transactions between October 15 and November 18, 2008.
“I kept everything and filed it away, the documents just never made it back to SSE,” Chapa shared with the Review.
Perhaps more concerning is the $29.23 Macy’s expenditure made on a shirt which Chapa had initially categorized as a “gift” on the ASSU banking system though recently confirmed it was a personal expenditure.
The Joint Bylaws of the ASSU, the laws governing the ASSU’s finances, specifically 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.”
Chapa returned the funds this past week, a fact verified by the *Review. * “I fully accept all responsibility for my actions and have recompensed the amount,” Chapa wrote in a public apology exclusively published in this issue of The Stanford Review.
Previous to last week’s repayment, Chapa had stated that he “used the card to make the [Macy’s] purchase and then paid it back” at the end of fall quarter 2008. However, both Chapa and Matt McLaughlin, CEO of SSE, had been unable to provide the Review with verification of the previous reimbursement; Chapa had stated “I cannot provide documentation for the Macy’s expense, though I made substantial effort to find the documentation,” and that “I took care of the expenditures with an SSE employee,” but had been unable to provide the name of the employee.
Though the personal expenditure has been reimbursed this past week by Chapa, the remaining six credit card transactions were paid for by the ASSU. Because the Senate is not technically a student group, they were allowed to exceed the maximum of two lost receipts in one year. The Review was able to obtain verification that these six other purchases were used for Senate-related activities.
The lack of oversight surrounding the credit card allowed these personal charges to go unnoticed. Oversight of the credit card “was mostly of the Chair’s [Chapa’s] prerogative and responsibility, the Chair’s privilege,” shared Shelley Gao ‘11, who served as Deputy Chair when the transaction was made and later went on to serve as Chair. Since Chapa was the only member of the Senate with formal oversight, other members of the Senate remained unaware of the purchase at the time.
Despite the financial records being public information, the issue never surfaced.
While many of the Senators remained unaware, a group of Senators and other prominent ASSU officials did learn about the Macy’s transaction. Discussion about how to proceed took place behind the scenes, but the ASSU never brought up the transaction at a public forum or challenged Chapa.
However, the ASSU did take the initiative to make sure such transactions couldn’t happen again even though the charge was relatively small.
After the receipts were not filed to SSE by February 2009, the Senate’s use of the credit card was withdrawn. For the winter and spring quarters, the Senate used a system of personal payment and reimbursement upon presentation of receipts for food items and other supplies needed for events. The Senate was not issued a credit card for the 2009-2010 session.
The ASSU still has a ways to go towards holding themselves accountable for every line item spent. The exposure of this purchase further calls into question the ethics of Stanford’s student body leaders in the wake of the Avula-Jones administrations $13,000 worth of charges from their discretionary funds on food and gas and former ASSU Vice President Jay de la Torre’s resignation over honor code violations.
According to Gao, “There needs to be huge ethical transformation and overhaul in this entire system. Basically, you have people in positions of power with the ability to actually abuse whatever it might be – whether its discretionary spending or credit cards – and I think it is very troubling, especially for the student body.”