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Monday, February 26, 2024

Judiciary chairman exonerated from abuse of power charges, senator will face poor conduct censure

SG Senate will vote on censure into Senator Jonathan C. Stephens Tuesday

The Student Government Senate Rules & Ethics Committee voted unanimously to exonerate one senator and recommend censure for a second.

The committee exonerated Judiciary Chairman John Brinkman (Gator - CLAS) from charges of abuse of power, malfeasance and nonfeasance Thursday. An hour later, it recommended a censure, or a formal reprimand, of Senator Jonathan C. Stephens (Change - District D) for poor conduct during Senate meetings.

A personal censure of Brinkman would not appropriately judge the actions of his committee as a whole, the committee ruled. The issue at hand, a disagreement on Brinkman’s interpretation of the Senate Rules & Procedures governing the Judiciary Committee, does not fall under the Rules & Ethics committee’s jurisdiction. 

A pending UF SG Supreme Court case, the committee said, would address those issues when it is in session in Fall. 

The censure meeting into Stephens was rescheduled from last Friday due to a lack of public notice.  His consistent disrespectful and disruptive behavior during Senate meetings, Majority Party Leader Emily Pecora said Thursday, should warrant his censure.  

Stephens made a personal attack on Senate President Elizabeth Hartzog during the July 5 Senate meeting, according to Pecora’s censure petition. 

After Hartzog had already issued Stephens two warnings during the meeting, he noted External Affairs Director Noah Fineberg’s presence at the meeting and referred to him as Hartzog’s husband, causing  Hartzog to become visibly upset. 

Stephens told The Alligator his statement — which he described as an inside joke between Senate members — was intended to lighten the mood after the tense meeting. 

The statement, Pecora said, was not an inside joke but rather insinuated Hartzog could not do her job without a man present.

“I’m here because I’m upset as a Senator, upset as a friend and upset as a woman,” she said during her opening remarks.

Stephens said he was not aware people took offense to his comments and did not know of Pecora’s censure petition until The Alligator reached out for comment.. 

Hartzog, as a courtesy, was made aware of the censure petition against her earlier this semester before it was filed but the same did not hold true for Brinkman or Stephens

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Stephens apologized to Hartzog during his testimony. He said he did not apologize immediately after the incident because it would have been disrespectful. 

The resolution to censure Stephens will see the Senate floor Tuesday 7 p.m. at the Southwest Recreation Center.

The committee, during deliberation, concluded it would reflect poorly on the behavior expected in the Senate if Stephens is not formally censured. 

Contact Sandra McDonald at Follow her on Twitter @sn_mcdonald.

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Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonald is a third-year journalism major and the Student Government reporter for the University Desk. This is her first semester at the Alligator. When she's not reporting, she's probably reading fantasy novels and listening to Taylor Swift.

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