As executive director of UMSU for over five years (2008-2013), I would like to refute the current UMSU president’s claims that it was “standard practice” at UMSU to have a lot of lunch meetings and that charges on the UMSU credit card over the past ten months relate to what has been “done at the organization for many, many years” (“UMSU president responds to allegations,” March 14, 2016). Yes, it was standard for executives to have a lot of meetings with students, but I can assure all UMSU members today that it was not standard practice at UMSU to charge lunches, drinks, or other personal and unnecessary items to the UMSU budget, and past presidents only used the credit card on rare occasions or for pre-approved expenses through the executive committee.
What Mr. Kopp has done – charging tens of thousands on the UMSU credit card and then to the UMSU budget – is unprecedented within the organization. He is correct to state that UMSU council approves the budget and is aware of budget lines, but there are restrictions on who can spend money (purchasing authority) and what expenditures need to go through executive, finance and SGPAC committees, and ultimately UMSU council. Most areas of the budget fall under one of these committees, and it was never just one executive who spent the UMSU budget at their sole discretion, and then ask staff – who report to them – to sign off on executive expenses.
I would like to commend this year’s vice-president student services, Jessica Morrison, and finance committee members for coming forward with this information on how students’ money was spent and for asking council to look further into this matter with a forensic audit. It’s not easy to do – to speak up – but it is necessary, and a legal requirement of any board, council, or executive member of an organization is to make known all matters, especially if it is believed to be illegal, unethical, or both.
Cathy Dowd, UMSU executive director 2008-2013