Secretary of Veterans Affairs Kyle Kendall given his two weeks

Terminated after three concerns by SGA President Timmy Sullivan

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Kyle Kendall given his two weeks

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

(Collegian File Photo)

By Cassandra McGrath, Assistant News Editor

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On Wednesday, Oct. 30, Secretary of Veterans Affairs for the Student Government Association, Kyle Kendall, announced in an SGA meeting, that he was given his two weeks’ notice by President Timmy Sullivan.

According to the meeting’s minutes, Senator Jordan McCarthy asked, “Why did you fire Kyle?” Sullivan responded, “This is not a space to litigate it. I will talk about it in a different setting.” Senator Christopher Smith replied, “Do you not think that a cabinet member being fired [is] the business of the Senate?” Sullivan responded, “It absolutely is the business of the Senate. You can request to speak with me, the vice president or request the meeting minutes.”

In an interview, Sullivan said that he considered this to be a Human Resources issue, which should be addressed through public documents and private discussions, not to a full room.

Kendall worked in Sullivan’s cabinet as a liaison between the SGA and student veterans. Kendall has been deployed twice, to Kuwait and Jordan, during his time at UMass and had to reapply to the school after returning.

Earlier in the semester, Kendall was called in for a performance review. At this time Sullivan presented Kendall with two concerns.

“I received two reports of conduct that were a cause for my concern related to Secretary Kendall acting in a professional capacity. Members of the executive branch, when working in a professional capacity as representatives of the president, so any projects, conduct, messaging, that comes out of secretaries is very important for the president and vice president to be aware of and to make sure it reflects their leadership and their ethos within the SGA and how we want to run our administration,” Sullivan said.

The first concern, which Kendall addressed both in his statement to the SGA on Oct. 30 and in an interview, was his relationship with UMass Emergency Medical Services.

Sullivan met with the director of a student agency who brought forth concerns over Kendall’s behavior with students in his agency. “The students were in fear of my position of potential retaliation by the SGA because of the position that I hold,” Kendall said. As a member of the cabinet, Kendall was acting on behalf of the executive branch.

Kendall asked Sullivan for the formal complaint against him and he was informed that it was UMass EMS. He added, “But still there were no names involved. I am yet to receive any statement that was made.”

“Something I had said to Secretary Kendall that I had faith that his intentions were earnest in meeting with the group, however, again touching on the impact that that conversation had had, there was an understanding from the students that an alternative message was being conveyed and that was something that was really troubling for us to have to be really diligent and intentional in making sure that relationship was not harmed in any way,” Sullivan said.

The second concern brought up in the performance review was in regards to a parking voucher.

“The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has traditionally worked with Parking Director Jon King. Someone in SGA noticed the distribution of tickets not going entirely to student veterans, giving them to a population for which these tickets were not intended,” Sullivan said, explaining these vouchers are meant for veterans to park on campus and the allocation of vouchers is provided by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“I was able to hear his perspective on those events and we were also able to discuss the impact that that understanding of what had transpired had on other members of the student body,” Sullivan said.

Although he was accused of using a parking voucher for someone who was not a veteran to which Kendall clarified that he had invited someone not involved on campus to an SGA senate meeting, to which he personally paid for their ticket out of pocket. He released his bank statement for proof.

In October, Sullivan had another concern about Kendall.

“I did a public records request to both the Secretary of Finance Stacey Muanya and to the Chief of Staff Tamar Stollman,” Kendall stated.

From Muanya, Kendall requested payroll records from last year “to include allotted time which SGA allotted each cabinet member for every position as well as the payroll reports to what was actually logged for each position.”

From the Chief of Staff, he requested minutes from the Student Legal Services Office Agency Advisory Board. “From that President Sullivan emailed me saying that they would fulfill those requests but he required [of] me what the nature was of my request.”

In an emailed response, Kendall replied, “I am requesting these records so that I maybetter serve the student population and the veteran community that I represent by doing research so that I can provide an accurate response to student(s) question(s) and concern(s) that havebeen/maybe raised.”

Sullivan replied, “Thank you. Please share with me the concerns that were raisedand please connect me with the concerned students.”

To this, Kendall responded, “Respectfully, this is well within my position to handle and I will do so once the requested records have been received. I have nothing further for you on this topic. I urge you to consult with Student Legal Services Office and the Attorney General prior to asking any questions on the use of or purpose of this and any future public records requests.”

“To my knowledge, [Sullivan] does not have a right to ask [why I am requesting these records]. I was doing that out of professional courtesy,” Kendall said.

Sullivan disagreed as he said, “Members of the executive cabinet are at-will employees of the president. Something that I like to do however is that when there are questions about a cabinet member’s performance or things related to fulfilling their job requirements or if they’re acting outside of the role, I like to give an opportunity to restore and re-center ourselves so we do what is called a performance review,” which is what Sullivan did after these two instances.

Sullivan thought the performance review was really successful.

“After the completion of that meeting, there was a separate instance that arose where he was working on a set of projects, the nature of which I am still not entirely sure,” Sullivan said. “I had made an attempt to inquire about the nature of the projects and how they fit into the job description as laid out in the bylaws. Cabinet members are hired primarily and only really to fulfill their explicit duties within the bylaws of the SGA and then also to carry forth the policy directives of the president and vice president anything else we need to have approved by us.”

“We just ask that projects not outlined in the bylaws are approved by us. We had… a meeting where we talked about everyone’s bylaws and expectations for serving in the executive cabinet and that was something that was explicitly said in that meeting,” Sullivan said.

“I took no issue with the fact that Secretary Kendall was helping these students, I actually really appreciate him performing in this way as a representative and to be able to help students get the information that they need from the SGA. I just wanted to be informed on the nature of what my staff was working on so I can keep them accountable to their projects and their duties within their role,” Sullivan continued.

Sullivan said that he appreciates Kendall’s professionalism during this time.

Kendall ultimately acquired the documents but said he has not had the opportunity to do much with them seeing that he was given his two weeks’ notice soon after. “I did pass on those records to the Rules and Ethics subcommittee for their impeachment investigation,” he said.

When asked if he was interested in appealing the termination Kendall replied, “I do have an interest in doing so.”

In the meantime, Sullivan has opened applications for the position.

“When there are instances where other students have questions of the nature of conduct of one of our staff members, it is highly concerning for us because we want to make sure that we are putting out the best representative of what the values of the executive branch and the SGA as a whole,” Sullivan said.

Cassandra McGrath can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @c_mmcgrath.