A new committee is investigating the VP external's potential conflict of interest. What is it?

Internal AMS discipline procedure got a revamp just in time to investigate the VP external for a possible conflict of interest.

The Ethics and Accountability committee was both written into code and assigned its first task at AMS Council on Wednesday, November 25.

AMS President Cole Evans said historically, the society hasn’t been adequately prepared to deal with the broad range of slip-ups that the AMS faces, from human error to larger-scale transgressions.

The newly formed committee now has the ability to determine formal disciplinary measures. These include but are not limited to a letter of apology, mandatory remedial training, removal of duties, censure or a request for resignation.

Councillors and executives will be able to refer any type of alleged infraction to the committee. The timeline and exact investigation process will vary according to the nature and severity of the situation, AMS Governance Committee Chair Sebastian Cooper said.

The committee had yet to meet to discuss VP External Kalith Nanayakkara’s possible conflict of interest infraction, as of Wednesday, December 2.

Before the formation of this committee, Evans said the main discipline measure for the AMS in past years has been censure.

Censure, a formal reprimand, consists of a motion from a councillor to openly criticize another councillor or executive. While there’s not much action taken after censure, it can look bad on the executive or councillor.

While Cooper said censure has its rightful place in the role of discipline within the society — and is a common tactic in many political organizations — the limited disciplinary methods previously available to Council created a feeling of insecurity among AMS executives when tasked with addressing lower-level issues.

“Basically, it creates a situation where, if there were even minor issues that [the] Council thought in some way should be addressed, they only had this one mechanism of doing so, which was seen as an extreme mechanism,” Cooper explained.

In April 2020, Evans faced a motion of censure after he failed to submit his executive goals report and did not inform councillors until the Council meeting was already in session. The motion to censure failed, with only two votes in favour. Evans instigated conversation of finding new discipline strategies after this incident.

“[Censure is] a potential method of public shaming, which has occurred without due process and [investigation of] a situation. So now we have created a system that allows due process to be carried out,” said Evans.

Cooper echoed this sentiment, stating that having specific procedures and policies in place for discipline is necessary for the AMS as an official organization under the BC Societies Act.

“Some people looking [in from the] outside may think that it’s not too serious, but when you have a society that has been formed under legislation, it has serious aspects to it.”