CSU student government blames hostile environment on president’s office relationship, tactics to force impeachment signatures

Haley Candelario

Editor’s note: Several members of ASCSU asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation within the organization.

ASCSU student body president Josh Silva listens to the ASCSU senate discuss the impeachment process on Sept. 22, 2017. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

After weeks of rumors, delayed impeachment attempts and a University investigation in CSU’s student government, public internal complaints reveal that student body president Josh Silva was involved in a consensual relationship that allegedly caused a hostile office culture for his executive cabinet.

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Three members of Silva’s executive cabinet submitted internal complaints regarding the consensual relationship between Silva and a member of his executive branch, according to open records obtained by the Collegian. The complainants said the relationship caused a hostile work environment in the executive office when one member felt they might be fired and replaced by the person Silva is dating.

But, last week, a group of students accused the senators attempting to impeach Silva of using intimidation tactics to get other members of the body to sign the petition–and at least one senator came forward to confirm this accusation anonymously.

The Associated Students of Colorado State University has handled Silva’s impeachment procedures since their first session of the academic year. The original petition cited allegations of moving funds to pay for a contract that would bring the Wall Street Journal to campus without the approval of the senate body. But in the second impeachment petition, accusations surfaced that Silva harassed and verbally abused ASCSU executive members and was involved in a consensual relationship that caused issues with other members in the office.

The consensual relationship and accusations of harassment sparked an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation — and because of the investigation, the use of the situation as a means to impeach had to be dropped. The University said ASCSU could not proceed with Silva’s impeachment on those charges because of CSU’s own investigation into the claims, and a dual investigation could not be conducted.

The third and final petition removed the allegations that conflicted with OEO’s investigation, citing only negotiations for the Wall Street Journal, Silva failing to write a job description for himself and deleting and concealing emails.

Office relationships cause turmoil

A consensual relationship between Silva and a member of his executive branch in the marketing department caused turmoil in the ASCSU office, according to internal complaints obtained by the Collegian through a Colorado Open Records request, that requires publicly funded institutions to make records public.

Members of the executive branch wrote in their internal complaints that Silva failed to follow the consensual relationship agreement set forth by ASCSU and the OEO which “has caused distress in the organization and in turn, a hostile work environment.”

According to one of the complaints, Silva has “persisted in oversight of the Marketing Department, resulting in problems in the department as well as ASCSU as a whole” and has repeatedly suggested that one member of his cabinet should be terminated and replaced with the person he is involved in a consensual relationship with. The cabinet member who claimed in the internal complaint that their job was at risk could not be reached for comment.

Despite being included in a previous version of the impeachment petition, the three internal complaints about the consensual relationship causing turmoil in the office, could not move forward because of the University’s investigation into the allegations that Silva harassed and verbally abused members of his executive branch and threatened to fire people.

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Silva said he never threatened to fire someone from their position, and believes the complaints came from the individual’s own self doubts in their ability to perform.

“I can’t think of any instance that I said I would fire (them),” Silva said. “I’ve made it really clear that we follow the policy.”

Another member of the executive cabinet, who asked to remain anonymous, said they struggled to work with the individual in question, and doubted that Silva was considering terminating them based on preferential treatment.

“I worked on (my first project for ASCSU) from May until the first week of school,” they said. “One day … (at) the end of the summer … I received this to-do list from (the person allegedly threatened with termination) for my project, but nothing’s been done.”

The member of the executive cabinet said they found out after getting the list that it would take weeks to process everything, and someone else did the work to promote the event instead of the individual who was allegedly being threatened with termination.

“I don’t go to (them) for anything,” she said. “I don’t think (they) knew what (they) were in for. I think they are learning along the way, whereas (others) knew exactly what they were doing.”

According to the executive member, Silva and the executive member he is in a relationship with do not act like they are dating, and they do not discuss matters with the department together.

“I never knew that they were dating until (I was officially told by other executive members),” they said. “They don’t do anything that would (cause anyone) to think that they were in a relationship together.”

Impeachment proponents accused of intimidation

Students not involved with ASCSU recently accused proponents of the impeachment petition of intimidating other senators into signing the document at the Oct. 18 senate session.

According to Sen. Cerridwyn Nordstrom, who has brought forward all three impeachment petitions against Josh, any senator who felt pressured to sign the document should remove their name.

“When Juan (Caro) had brought up that people had signed the petition who felt pressured into it, my first reaction was, ‘Well, then take your name off because I don’t want it,’” Nordstrom said. “I don’t want people on there who don’t believe in what they put. That’s not credible and I want it to be completely credible.”

Nordstrom also said that while she individually asked senators if they would be interested in signing the impeachment petition, she did not pressure anyone into signing it.

“If they say no, I always ask, ‘Would you mind telling me why?’ because I like to have that information,” Nordstrom said. “… But, I’ve never been like, ‘You have to tell me. You have to sign it.’”

I’ve never been like, ‘You have to tell me. You have to sign it.'” Sen. Cerridwyn Nordstrom

Other members of the senate body said they felt like they were intimidated into signing the document.

“Just because (of) the way senate works, we’re all friends,” one senator said, who asked to remain anonymous. “When senate closes, we all have our friend groups and in all honesty, I was intimidated to sign it.”

The senator said they were involved with talks about impeachment since the start and willingly signed the first petition since they felt there was a violation of the ASCSU Constitution regarding the funding of the Wall Street Journal contract.

However, the senator said they felt pressured into signing the second and third petitions because there was a need for signatures, though they did not agree with the allegations listed on either.

“I signed the first petition because (the funding of the Wall Street Journal) needs to be investigated, it really needs to,” they said. “The second time, I was very hesitant just because of how big it had gotten. It’s way bigger than any of us at this point.”

The senator also said they were deterred from signing the last two versions of the petitions because proponents of the petition considered the petition more important than bills the senator had intended to author.

“(Someone) said to me, ‘We have bigger fish to fry than this,’” they said. “He implied that what I was trying to do in the senate isn’t important because we need to deal with (the impeachment) first.”

According to the senator, Nordstrom asked them to sign the petition because she did not have the required 20 percent of senators sign the document to allow the impeachment process to proceed.

The senator said the need for signatures from proponents of the petition comes from the desire for power.

“Someone who’s been in senate all four years of their college career … (said), ‘You’re involved in ASCSU for one of two reasons: You want power, or you want to help the people,’” they said. “‘And most of the time, it’s because you want power.’”

While the senator said they willingly signed the first petition, recent impeachment proceedings have made them think proponents of the bill are looking for any reason to impeach Silva.

“It feels like we’re fishing,” they said. “(It feels like) we’re fishing to get rid of him.”

Collegian News Director Haley Candelario can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @H_Candelario98.