The Student Assembly Senate Finance Committee has determined that Senator Steven Nelson ’10 inappropriately charged $4.79 to the SA debit card connected to an off-campus account misused by former SA Vice President Zach Pilchen ’09.
In a charge that cleared on Dec. 10, 2007, Nelson made a $4.79 purchase at Wawa. According to the senate’s report, Nelson admitted to using the card accidentally while it was in his possession for the purchase of materials for a free speech wall. The report also states that Nelson believes he repaid then-SA President Zach Pilchen ’09 for the purchase.
It has not been determined conclusively whether or not Nelson repaid Pilchen.
“I accidentally used the card at Wawa,” Nelson told The Flat Hat. “I told Zach and [Sen.] Matt [Beato ’09] … the people who needed to know.”
Nelson went on to say that he was very open about the accidental purchase with members of the SA in the months following the purchase.
Beato said Nelson told him months later, when Beato had left the SA to run for Williamsburg City Council. He said he notified several SA members and decided he would investigate when he returned to the SA. It was this investigation that originally determined Pilchen’s misuse of the account.
“Steven Nelson, I think, was very honest about it from the beginning and told people about it,” finance committee chairwoman Sen. Caroline Mullis ’09 said.
Andrew Blasi ’09, who oversaw the account as secretary of finance at the time, said that he had no recollection of the purchase in the bank statements.
“There was no reason to suspect any wrongdoing,” Blasi said. “I think what happened is very unfortunate.”
In addition to Nelson’s purchase, the finance committee uncovered approximately $196.15 in unaccounted for purchases. One of two purchases at the College’s copy center, both for approximately $56, is known to be legitimate, although it is unclear which of the two it is.
“Of those purchases, we’ve found it’s clear, although there is no proof, that they are likely legitimate,” senate chairman Walter McClean ’09 said.
Unaccounted for purchases were made at Staples, the U.S. Postal Service, Wal-Mart and the College’s copy center.
“I know that we’ve taken what we’ve learned, and what we’ve found out, and we’re going to turn it into action to prevent this from happening again,” McClean said.
The official investigation began following the revelation in early September that Pilchen had misused the account for personal purchases. The committee cataloged each purchase made on the account purchases that occurred during Pilchen’s terms as president and vice president, and used e-mails, interviews and SA calendars to determine each purchase’s purpose.
“Cooperation from everyone exceeded my expectations,” Mullis, said. “I think we’re all happy this is behind us and can move on.”
The College’s audit office will be performing an audit of the account during Pilchen’s tenure. The College’s senior auditor, Sharon Bohn, will be conducting the audit.
The report also details recommendations on how the senate could change the finance code to make executive spending more accountable, including eliminating the debit card, creating an itemized list of expenditures to be reviewed by the senate and posting expenditures made on the account on the senate’s listserv. The report also advises the senate to clarify who is authorized to use the account.
SA President Valerie Hopkins ’09 would not comment for this article as she had not yet read the report.