USG senator impeached after accusations of attempting to influence justices

CLAS Sen. Tim Sullivan looks on during an Undergraduate Student Government during an abortion debate hosted by the UConn College Republicans on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. Sullivan was impeached Thursday for allegedly attempting to buy the support of an Undergraduate Student Government justice. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

CLAS Sen. Tim Sullivan was impeached Thursday for allegedly attempting to buy the support of an Undergraduate Student Government justice.

The judiciary's decision to impeach Sullivan means the Senate must now vote on whether to remove him from office, which will occur at a meeting next Wednesday.

Earlier this year, two justices were unconstitutionally sworn into office, resulting in six justices filling five seats on the judiciary. Leaders in USG have yet to resolve the issue. 

As a result, Sullivan allegedly promised one of the two associate justices who was improperly appointed that he would be reappointed if he pledged to oppose an elections violation case presented against presidential candidate Stephanie Sponzo.

“Beyond a reasonable expectation… (Sullivan) hinted strongly at the fact that—if Associate Justice Zebrowski voted down to hear an elections violation case or voted not to hear it—that senator Sullivan would make sure in his full capacity that Associate Justice Zebrowski would get reappointed as justice, because we would have to impeach two of them,” Chief Justice Tyler Ryff said.

According to an official grievance Zebrowski filed, Sullivan told Zebrowski that Sullivan thought the number of justices was a problem, but Sullivan did not want to have to remove any particular justice.

Sullivan asked what Zebrowski knew of the pending case against Sponzo, a McMahon senator and candidate for USG president, according to the grievance. Sullivan offered to try and convince Pres. Rachel Conboy that Zebrowski should be retained in exchange for Zebrowski voting against hearing the case.

Sponzo is facing allegations of unfair endorsement of her presidential campaign at a USG funded event.

Sullivan will be tried at Senate next week. A two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.

“I’m criticized for being political,” Sullivan said. “I haven’t broken any rules.”

Sullivan said he has not violated bylaws saying senators’ conduct should “preserve the spirit and integrity of the Undergraduate Student Government.”

“Under this precedent anyone can be impeached for any charge, which is dangerous, and I think the senate should be worried,” Sullivan said. “They criticized me for being political, and to an extent it was political, but elections are political, but they are guilty of the same thing.”

Sullivan said he was not afforded adequate time to prepare a defense because the hearing was scheduled at a time that he had class.

Sullivan said he was presented evidence to review with “10 minutes to look over it.” 

Sullivan said he will also not be present next Senate when the case will be brought forward for a school trip and so will not be able to defend himself.

“I have just requested that (speaker of the senate Colin Ng) move it to either a special senate the following week or the next senate meeting that I may speak in my defense, and he refuses to,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said this is a violation of the constitution, and if Ng proceeds with this action, Sullivan said he will be filing for Ng’s impeachment.

“If I was asking a judiciary member his opinion on a case and then one of them was going to be removed regardless, of course they are going on the defensive,” Sullivan said. “There was even one part of the case where I felt like the judiciary were the prosecutors. They are supposed to appear impartial. They couldn’t be impartial because this is a totally politically motivated case and I am confident that the senate will side with me on this case.”

Sullivan said he has been working on the issue for months and would have “stood up right away” but was nervous to do so as a relatively new senator.

Sullivan said he wanted to cast his vote based on the justices’ views.

“I wanted to know his position, because that would determine whether or not I voted for him,” Sullivan said. “Seeing as there are six and two are unconstitutional, they would have to be impeached and reappointed and senate would confirm one of them for the seat. If I am going to impeach them, I want to know if they have sound judgement and I agree with their philosophy.

Sponzo said she was unaware of the Sullivan’s actions “until it actually happened,” and Sponzo testified against Sullivan at Thursday’s hearing.

“I told (Sullivan) that as a potential president of this organization next year, I would not tolerate that kind of behavior,” Sponzo said. “I was saddened to learn about his behavior and about what he attempted to do.”

Sullivan said his actions were purely based on judging the philosophy of the two justices, not to support Sponzo’s presidential campaign.

“I’m not on the roster for them,” Sullivan said. “I don’t even know who I’m voting for. I haven’t helped either campaign in any way. I wanted to know how he would vote on this particular issue, and I wanted to know that there was a justice who had a sound philosophy on the bench.”


Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at nicholas.shigo@uconn.edu.