In response to his forced removal from the position of Student Government Association (SGA) executive president, Eric Pasternack has hired a lawyer, Roy Curnow, and filed a lawsuit against the College.
According to a Campus Police report, Pasternack, who was under 21 at the time, was present at a party in the Townhouses East complex in March. In the report, Campus Police, responding to a noise complaint, discovered that “all individuals (at the party) had at least two shots of vodka.”
Since the incident, Pasternack has been forced to step down as executive president due to the Student Leadership Criteria that all SGA executive board members must sign. According to the criteria, students on the executive board of any College organization must “be free of probation with restrictions in residence, college-wide disciplinary probation or higher-level disciplinary sanctions.”
In an e-mail sent in July, Pasternack explained that the lawsuit was filed “due to the unethical and unconstitutional behavior by certain members of the school administration depriving me of my right to serve as the executive president of (SGA), and to disenfranchise the students of the College to elect representatives to SGA.”
Since filing the lawsuit, Pasternack’s case has gone to the Mercer County Courthouse in Trenton, where it was heard by Judge Neil Shuster, according to Curnow.
Curnow said that on Friday Shuster released a written opinion regarding the case. Shuster referred the case to the New Jersey Appellate Court. Normally, a case would have to be decided on by a trial judge before being moved to an Appellate court. But, Curnow said, because the College is a public entity, the case moved directly to the Appellate where it will be heard by a different judge.
When asked when the court case would take place, Curnow said it was “hard to say.”
Curnow added that he and Pasternack are “pursuing the case.”
“(Pasternack) feels he was treated unfairly,” Curnow said.
Since his removal from office, Pasternack has been replaced by Christine Cullen. Cullen originally won the position of executive vice president in the SGA general election last April.
However, according to SGA 100-level bylaws, “in the event that the president resigns or has his/her membership on SGA terminated by removal from office, withdrawal from the College, graduation, or for any other reason, the executive vice president shall assume the position of president.”
Pasternack, who hopes to resume his position as president, believes Cullen will face many challenges if she remains president.
“(Cullen’s) lack of experience may put her at a disadvantage when negotiating with the administration,” Pasternack said in an e-mail.
One of Cullen’s first challenges will be to fill the empty position of executive vice president.
According to Cullen, she will do this by opening the position to all current SGA senate members that have been a member for at least a year during the first general body meeting this Wednesday. Interested members will fill out an application and be interviewed by Cullen and Magda Manetas, SGA advisor. Cullen will then discuss the applicants with the rest of the executive board members.
“I will decide who will be the new executive vice president and announce my decision at the next general body meeting and swear them in with the senate’s approval,” Cullen said.
Cullen said she is confident about her ability to lead SGA. “I feel that I am more than qualified for the presidency and with the help of the executive board and the senate I know that this will be a tremendous year for SGA,” she said.
“Last I heard, (Cullen) was prepared to assume the duties of the president and (the executive board) resolved to do our best to help her,” Michael Strom, vice president of legal and governmental affairs, said.
In the meantime, Pasternack will fight in court to be reinstated into SGA.
However, if Pasternack wins his case, his future as president would still be unclear.
Pasternack said, “As SGA (executive) president, my main concern is not whether or not I am popular with the members of the administration, but whether or not the actions of the administration are beneficial or detrimental to the well-being of the student body.”