No further punishment in Michigan Student Assembly case against Gibran Baydoun

BY JENNA SKOLLER
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 22, 2009

Correction appended: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that all charges were dropped against Gibran Baydoun. Baydoun was found guilty of negligently handling MSA funds.

Former Michigan Student Assembly presidential candidate Gibran Baydoun was found guilty of negligently handling MSA funds Friday. Baydoun’s punishment was a stern warning from the judicial branch of the University’s student government.

MSA’s Central Student Judiciary Chief Justice Daniel Horwitz, a Law School student, said Baydoun, an LSA junior, should consider the “strong words” he received from the three justices trying him and the concerns from his classmates as his penalty.

Baydoun, who was chair of the Homecoming Committee, was accused of inappropriately holding onto the $2,527.42 raised for University of Michigan Dance Marathon during homecoming last October for about five months and of depositing the funds into his personal checking account.

If a fundraiser collects more than $500, the money must be deposited into a MSA account within one business day of the event, according to MSA Treasurer Lisa Averill.

On behalf of MSA, Student General Counsel Michael Benson, a Rackham Graduate School student, filed a case against Baydoun with CSJ, calling for the justices to prohibit him from being an authorized signer for any MSA-registered organization and to charge him with a $50 fine. The trial was held Friday at 5 p.m. in the Union.

During the hearing, Baydoun admitted to holding onto the money and depositing it in his bank account.

Because of a robbery in his building during homecoming week, Baydoun said he wanted to put the money in his bank account for safekeeping while he went away for the weekend. He said he kept all the singles and change — about $482 — in a container in his room and put the remaining money in his checking account.

Baydoun was also in charge of depositing the money raised from homecoming in 2007, which CSJ determined meant he knew the funds should have been deposited within one business day. Baydoun said he was not aware of the one business day deadline, and that he had planned to turn over the money by the start of the UMDM event held this past weekend.

Baydoun said he procrastinated, but had every intention of donating the money to UMDM. He said no one asked him for the money prior to the Sunday before the trial.

When Averill realized the money was not yet donated to UMDM, she set last Monday morning as a deadline for the money to be submitted — a deadline Baydoun did not meet.

Baydoun did not return the money until the MSA Executive Board pressured him to do so and an e-mail from Student Affairs Program Manager and MSA Adviser Anika Awai-Williams notified him that he would face severe repercussions if he did not return the money by that Wednesday morning, which he did.

To make up for any interest that may have accumulated while the money was in his bank account and to compensate for any possible discrepancies in the amount of money raised, Baydoun wrote UMDM a personal check for $500. At the end of the trial, CSJ ordered MSA, which had been holding onto the $500 check until the event, to return it to Baydoun because MSA President Sabrina Shingwani verified the amount of money Baydoun returned was correct.

Baydoun said that in retrospect he realized he did not handle the funds as he should have and that he felt badly for keeping the money for so long.

“I feel like this was not in keeping with the standard that I held for myself,” Baydoun said.

Benson said he was satisfied with the trial's results.

“I think CSJ found for MSA, but at the same point did not do irreparable harm to (Baydoun),” he said. “He has done great work for MSA in the past. This was just a lapse in judgment. He made a big mistake, but there was no malice.”

After all was said and done, Baydoun said he was just happy the trial was over.

“I think it’s clear from the ruling that there was no intentional wrongdoing or malfeasance on my part,” he said. “I’m glad that it was taken care of and that the CSJ trial showed that.”