The ASUC Senate’s governance and internal affairs committee approved nominees for next year’s attorney general and chief accountability officer this week.
On Monday night, the committee unanimously approved UC Berkeley sophomore Alek Klimek as the nominee for attorney general and sophomore Shoujit Banerjee as the nominee for chief accountability officer, or CAO. The attorney general is charged with ensuring compliance with the ASUC Constitution’s rules and bylaws, and the CAO develops and implements policies promoting “accountability, transparency, and ethical behavior,” according to ASUC bylaws.
The current attorney general, Natalja Karniouchina, was not nominated until last October, after months of delay stemming from concern over the neutrality and qualifications of last spring’s nomineee. According to members of the committee, there is a benefit in selecting a new attorney general before elections, which start this year on April 7.
Dree Kavoussi, a SQUELCH! senator and member of the committee that approved Klimek and Banerjee, said she did not expect the decisions to be controversial. Klimek was nominated over two other candidates — including Banerjee, who was considered for both positions — and Banerjee was chosen over three other candidates.
“(Klimek) really, really knows everything inside and out, and he’s not partisan,” Kavoussi said. “The other candidates weren’t intimately integrated in the community, except for one of them who we ended up choosing for CAO.”
Klimek has served for two years as senate vice chair. His goals for the position of attorney general include completing a project to modernize the ASUC’s governing documents and developing a manual explaining the organization’s bylaws. According to Kavoussi, the committee found that Klimek and Banerjee would do well in balancing each other’s working styles.
During his interview at Monday’s committee meeting, Banerjee emphasized the importance of the CAO position in maintaining transparency and public accessibility. He serves as the ASUC’s public defender, a newly created position that reports to the chief accountability officer. Heidi Kang currently serves as CAO.
In addition to nominating an attorney general and chief accountability officer candidate, the committee decided to table discussion of a bill seeking to clarify, update and simplify numerous aspects of the ASUC constitution.
Changes made by the bill include revisions to make the language more gender neutral and inclusive and increased flexibility to the senate’s absence policy. Contrary to the old policy of excusing absences only for medical or religious reasons, the revised language adds academic conflict, court appearance and family emergency as accepted excuses.
The bill also adds a provision to prevent ASUC officers and senators from voting on decisions that explicitly benefit themselves, as per conflict of interest clauses typically used by governments and nonprofits, among other changes.