Halifax President under investigation following alleged financial irregularities

Halifax College Student Association President Roberto Powell is being investigated for financial misdemeanours by YUSU Officers following allegations of embezzlement, Nouse understands.

Services and Finance Officer Matt Burton and YUSU Chief Executive Saul Bertoletti are investigating specific withdrawals made from the college account, after numerous Halifax students raised concerns over certain events authorised by Powell.

Halifax College Student Association (HCSA) Treasurer, Dominic Titherington, failed to respond to a request from a Nouse reporter to provide the college association’s financial statements, a right afforded to all Halifax students under the constitution of the college.

Despite being denied access to the statements, it is believed that the level of expenditure this year is far greater than the amount under previous President David Sharpe.

The statements were requested after several students alerted Nouse to a number of events run by students that were bankrolled by the college accounts.

One student told Nouse that Powell had promised to allocate “up to £200” to students running events such as block socials and barbeques.

Powell rejected the allegations outright, and denied there was any need for the YUSU investigation.

“I don’t know where these allegations have come from, but at no point in time have Halifax funds been used to fund private parties or BBQs,” said Powell.

The HCSA constitution stipulates that “all expenditure and income must be approved by an Executive Meeting.”

Powell stated that the only money that he had authorised to be donated to private parties amounted to £20 that was given to an individual student in Younger Court. Powell justified the money as designed to test the system of funding parties to encourage social interaction.

One female resident told Nouse that Powell had promised “between £150 and £200” to each court, with the money to be arranged through “court reps”.

The legitimacy of these ‘court reps’ is unknown, with no official election to the Student Association, and most students unaware of their existence.

A male resident in Lindley Court told Nouse that as much as £400 could be obtained for private parties through negotiations with the college porters.

Each college representative is allocated £800 per term, in addition to their YUSU grant, in order to foster community spirit amongst residents.

The supplement, arranged by Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Students Jane Grenville, is intended to support bar quizzes, welfare provision and other techniques to raise the importance of the collegiate system for all students.

The investigation was still ongoing as Nouse went to press.

27 comments

  1. 12 May ’09 at 1:46 pm

    Halifax Student

    Don’t really understand the point of this story…

    So Powell is given some money to “foster community spirit amongst [Halifax] residents”.

    Powell and the HCSA then give a measley £20 to a student to contribute towards a court intergration event to see whether this is a successful method of fostering such a community spirit.

    Big deal…

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  2. I think you miss the point completely Halifax Student.

    The story is that Powell is being investigated by YUSU. Suggesting, perhaps, that his actions may be in breach of University and College rules. I think you’re also focusing on the one example explained, when the article clearly states “a number of events” and has quotes from students supporting this claim.

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  3. The HCSA executive committee were assured on Sunday that the distribution of funds from the Jane Grenville Grant had been discussed and okayed with the YUSU Chief Executive. This was contrary to my understanding of the position of charity law, however we assumed that the advice Roberto had received was accurate. If YUSU are now investigating this is a very worrying development.

    On the subject of unelected court representatives, at present the elected Ents Officers have to be involved in the process of organising the events, so that there is some oversight from the HCSA exec. It has been suggested, and I know Roberto has considered this, that the constitution could be changed to create an ents team with one representative from each court to replace the current system of having upto 4 members of the college holding the position of Ents Officers.

    There will be an Open General Meeting this term, at which no doubt some consitutional amendments will be proposed, and I’d urge as many Halifax Students as possible to attend

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  4. 12 May ’09 at 4:14 pm

    Halifax college member

    Court socials have been an idea flying around the HCSA committee members for some time now. I am not a member myself but am aware of the idea when discussing the proposals with David Sharp* last year. The concept is not new so i believe Powell has done well testing this to Halifax college. Powell has been fundamental into the JJ refurbishment into a common room. Comparing the finances between Powell and Sharp can not be conceived as a fair comparison, due to improvements in JJs for the Halifax students. I for one can certainly see the changes have been drastic. Therefore without the budget expenditure it would certainly be impossible to see if there were any abnormalities. Powell has spent £20 on a publisised Halifax court social, within the constitution of Powell’s position as chair and backing of the HCSA. I see no reason to question this. To those ‘numerous’ Halifax residents that have claimed to obtain money, but not directly quoted by Foy, suggests to me that this is a loose comment to support a ridiculous article. Seeing as many of the basic facts in this article are simply not true, and poorly written with no actual evidence I can only assume this is a no use article from Nouse.

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  5. 12 May ’09 at 4:23 pm

    Not a Halifax student

    Powell is being investigated by YUSU though, and why would the HCSA committee break their constitution and deny a request to show accounts to a HCSA member? I don’t think Nouse would purposely print lies, especially as the article would have been approved for print by YUSU and Grand Master Shanks.

    The rest of the article notwithstanding, something is definitely smelling funny, and it’s not just the lake.

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  6. “Comparing the finances between Powell and Sharp can not be conceived as a fair comparison, due to improvements in JJs for the Halifax students”

    The refubishment of JJ’s hasn’t come from the HCSA account, but from the college account, so such a comparison is completely fair. The only items which the HCSA have bought for JJ’s are some games consoles and games, none of which have yet been installed in JJ’s. Furthermore these purchases were made from funds granted specifically for the upgrading of JJ’s by YUSU, and therefore have no impact on the HCSA own funds account.

    The truth is that the income for the HCSA has been drastically reduced in the last two years. Last year the HCSA roughly broke even, this year is expected to be more challenging, and one of the greatest concerns I have as an HCSA exec member is that money could quite easily be squandered through schemes such as court socials.

    It is true that there was some discussion of this idea last year, but it was never proposed that sums of money in the region of those currently being discussed would be invloved, indeed it was my opinion that it would be illegal for any funds to be used directly promoting or funding court socials. Mostly it was discussed what non-financial assistance the HCSA may be able to offer.

    As for the basic facts not being true, I have also heard people discussing how much money may be made available for court socials. Although I believe the figures to be somewhat infated (the Jane Grenville Grant in total is only £100 per court per term) it is something which deserves serious measured consideration by the HCSA exec.

    Kit Dixon

    HCSA College Council Representative 2009
    HCSA Treasurer 2008

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  7. This article is a complete joke, being published as it has after Rob was cleared of all wrongdoing by no less than the chief executive of YUSU. The reason nouse could not get any real quotes from HCSA members is because we all know Rob is doing a superb job and would never leave ourselves open to misinterpretation by a paper which specialises in just that. Where they have plucked these ridiculous figures out of the air from defies belief; the Halifax members who have made these claims, if indeed they do exist and weren’t invented by Foy to legitimise an embarassingly poor article, should show themselves and prove their ridiculous claims, which they will inevitably fail to do. Never has a ‘private party’ been funded by Halifax money, nor has it ever even been spoken about doing. The level of anti-Halifax bias shown by this and other papers is a disgrace and should be rectified soon to prevent Nouse becoming a total laughing stock on campus

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  8. 12 May ’09 at 5:55 pm

    Younger Court Resident

    As a younger court resident I knew very few of my neighbours until there was a social organised by my rep. After speaking to my rep before the article was published by nouse he said that he was keen to improve house relations and was going to fund the social by himself until HCSA gave £20 to support the social. Myself and others found that it was a good success and after reading the article it is said that £800 can be given for social events so as long as they are promoting relations then I see no problem in this. I would just like to say that the money given contributed to a successful night and younger court is actually having another social night tonight, which is not funded by any university money, which goes to show what the night is actually useful for. Regardless of the outcome that this article brings I think that court reps are an essential part of bringing together the community and improving relations. I wait with anticipation for some actual proof that nouse may have in the wrongdoings of Roberto Powell.

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  9. 12 May ’09 at 8:42 pm

    Samuel James Partridge

    To all on this board,

    I have to admit to being the mysterious “Younger Court Rep” that was mentioned in this article.

    Let me make this clear – firstly, I have no authority or position on the HCSA. I am a volunteer, and the Halifax Entertainment Officers, at this moment in time, are in contact with volunteers like myself to encourage social interactions in Halifax and help organise such events, with them being in charge of all matters. Our events and all funding is run by them foremost, as is their post, and my role along with others is simply as a social figurehead of the Courts of Halifax.

    Secondly, we have not received these vast and ridiculous sums of cash. To suggest as such is slander. I did not expect a paper such as the Nouse to fall victim to quoting ridiculous, vicious rumours, but if such has been printed, then I have a duty to correct my esteemed peers. The event was not only highly successful, but also totally appropriately related to the funding allocated, as it was a Social event, that improved College Spirit and was also far from Private. Numerous individuals from across Halifax attended, and the amount we received was no higher than £22 in all.

    Thirdly, “a number of events” must be corrected immediately. A single event has so far occurred, and I can produce numerous seconders for this claim. The Nouse either has to review its sources as unreliable, or has simply pulled figures from the air. In clarification; the £800 mentioned is for all Social Events, and will be divided fairly between all Courts and College events, the £150 – £200 is a meaningless number that can only be related to the division of the Social funding, and the £20 spent was used in the approved manner.

    I add that recently a vast sum of funding, around £1,800, was returned the YUSU, unused by Halifax College, and it is a testament to Roberto’s continuing hard efforts and time spent on Halifax that these new, successful reforms have come about. If it is any college that is in dire need of improvement of social interactions, it is my own. I have suffered long and hard at the hands of the poor social climate of Halifax, and refuse to any longer. No amount of slander, negative comments nor resistance to change will stop myself or other Halifaxers from improving our College for the better.

    I am honestly shocked and disappointed at the Nouse. Your methods of information gathering seemed most petty, and coverage of what could become a vital part of University life highly inaccurate. I would encourage those who believe they are trustworthy and honest reporters to pay less attention to the Grapevine in the future, and hasten them to attend to more meaningful pursuits of University coverage in following articles.

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  10. Samuel, what do you mean when you say that a vast sum of funding (£1,800) ‘was returned to YUSU’?

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  11. Firstly stop using the word ‘slander’. Even if it is not true it is not slander. One it’s written, not spoken, and two it is not causing any financial loss to you or Roberto Powell. It could be argued to be libellous although as the article makes clear all these are mere allegations, Nouse are not reporting them as statements of fact. Furthermore they have given Roberto and Dominic the right to reply.

    The key issue involved in the organising of these social events is whether or not it is legal. This is a very grey area. My understanding of the situation is this. Halifax ‘own funds’ couldn’t be used as these events would not be for the benefit of all Halifax Students, and would run in direct competition to the commercially run Halifax events. YUSU funds couldn’t be used as they are not for the benefit of all students, and no specific request for funds of this type of use were made. The Jane Grenville Grant is a bit of a perculiarity, however it should be noted that it is still public money, and therefore it’s use is limited. This is why it’s use needs to be further discussed by the HCSA.

    The article quotes the constitution “all expenditure and income must be approved by an Executive Meeting.” I congratulate Nouse for their selective reading of the Halifax constitution. If they take a closer look they’ll find section 12 which is probably the most controversial section in the entire document. It allows the President to make policy in the absence of a quorate executive meeting, on the condition that this policy “is presented to the next Executive Meeting for approval”. This procedure was I believe followed in the case of the £22 expenditure on the Younger Court social. Personally I’ve never been happy with section 12 and would love to see it dropped, but it does serve a purpose, for example I doubt Halifax Students would have liked to see the Winter Ball last year cancelled when the venue demanded extra money for the hire of a DJ at the last minute.

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  12. 13 May ’09 at 4:21 am

    Halifax Student

    Samuel James Partridge,

    A ‘Younger Court Rep’ is not referenced in the article. What do you mean?

    Also, you seem to know a lot about the internal procedures of the Halifax SA and the processes that have/would have been undertaken in this instance. I think, perhaps, that you are not what you seem.

    “In clarification; the £800 mentioned is for all Social Events, and will be divided fairly between all Courts and College events” – is that knowledge that all Halifax students know? Or perhaps just those that
    have the ear of the esteemed Mr. Powell?

    And yes, inevitable commenters, I am being provocative.

    Well done Nouse for actually having the guts to take our elected representative on.

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  13. kit dixon you clearly dont know what your talking about or doing. Roberto gave a statement to the editor himself, although it seems to have been strangely ommited, strange don’t you think that the guy being lined up against the firing squad doesn’t even have his statement printed, this is cleary underhand tactics by Nouse to try and create a big story to fill their paper, roberto has done more for halifax than you ever did and and has been cleared by yusu many days before this went to print!!! Kit maybe if you turned up to meeting instead of just big yourself up with your HCSA credentials you might understand!

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  14. Shilling you would have more of a leg to stand on claiming I don’t knowing what I’m talking about, and criticising me for not turning up to meetings, if you’d turned up to the HCSA meeting on Sunday yourself.

    The matter of how we spend this money still needs discussion, as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been a single vote to allocate any of it. You also seem blissfully unaware that I’ve actually been defending the way in which Roberto has conducted himself, pointing out that the procedures laid out in the constitution have been followed.

    As for what I’ve done for Halifax, I was working for the HCSA before you’d even started sixth form, so frankly you’re not in a position to judge.

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  15. Er ‘shillin’,
    There is a statement from Roberto in the article. Perhaps you should read it a little more carefully.

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  16. 13 May ’09 at 3:08 pm

    Lorna Bowling

    This article quite frankly is an embarrassment to York University the fact that the Student Newspaper is willing to publicly slate an active student is nauseating. This story does not claim facts just pure assumptions and is biased persuasion. All it is based upon one young man who does not have any facts right, just feeling the need to report inaccurate information passed through students. I was not aware Nouse printed ‘Chinese whispers’ in their newspaper maybe the writers and editors behind this should reflect upon the fact that this article attempts to and achieves to diminish some ones character and credibility which is despicable. Using words such as embezzle is absurd and contradicting everything the University stands for. I believed that talented articulate writers were hand picked but clearly this reporter does not understand the meaning of such large complex words can have shocking consequences. I hope when the spotlight is shed upon this blown out of proportion incident that Nouse will make a public apology to Roberto Powell and all those who have been appalled in such wrong doing. I do hope that the convincing newspaper do not believe that they win awards for such laughable journalism. It’s time to bow your heads in shame.

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  17. 13 May ’09 at 3:33 pm

    About time...

    It’s good to see a bit of attention and accountability being thrown at the College chairs for a change. If the money has been used properly, then Roberto & Halifax have nothing to worry. If things aren’t 100%, I look forward to reading about the first no-confidence vote of 2009!

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  18. The idea of trying to foster some (much needed) college spirit in Halifax by getting courts together in a social environment actually seems like a good idea to me….

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  19. But does giving them money for parties actually create college spirit Flynn? The courts/halls of residence remain segregated by giving each of them individual parties and not getting everyone together.
    PS – Whitby looked fun, I’m sad I missed out.
    x

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  20. I understand where you are coming from Kate.

    However, I think because of Halifax’ size and geographical spread compared (currently) to all other colleges, court specific events serve a better purpose than quad/block specific parties in other colleges. It is similar to why we have college events and not just YUSU run events.

    Also, wouldn’t better court spirit ultimately result in better college spirit? As more and more people ‘get involved’ at a court level, wont that result in more people wanting to ‘get involved’ at a college level? E.g. if person X likes a small court based event, they are more likely to go to a college event and, possibly, encourage house/flat mates to go too.

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  21. Took the words right out of the mouth TDL…

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  22. I agree with Tom Langrish too, as an ex-Halifax fresher (SLC/E24 2004/5 – oh yeah).

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  23. I know loads of people from younger court who didn’t know people in their court before this event. For 22 quid people in younger court (who I might add are do not know each other very well as the court is not shaped like a court) got to finally know each other. The problem is not of was this fair or not, it was why wasn’t this sort of event done sooner. I read the negative comments on this article and to be honest all I see is sour grapes. Why are you arguing over £20? How do you know if it was a success if you wern’t there. Halifax is the biggest college on campus, so court social events are the best idea.

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  24. Perhaps the problem is not ‘sour grapes’, but a lack of transparency? The main fuel to this story, after all, is that there has been a failure to adequately demonstrate to both Nouse and Halifax students how the college’s money is being spent, whilst the stories being told to Nouse end up contradicting each other according to the source. The refusal to reveal financial statements, whilst not proof of misdemeanour, only serves to further muddy the waters. So, whatever the truth, Nouse seem to be doing a pretty good job following up an important issue; and, whatever the truth about the ‘court parties’ etc, Powell et al should be more open about them before trouble even arises.

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  25. From my own experience of Mr. Powell, something like this occuring wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. There appears to be a clear breach of rules somewhere down the line and this must obviously be thoroughly investigated by the relevant persons and if found guilty, the correct procedures initiated.

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  26. And ‘shillin’, it’s hard to take anything you write serious with grammar like that. Sort it out.

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  27. Accounts should be transparent should they not ? Why the hesitation to reveal them ?

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