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Controversy surrounds UI City Council liaison’s resignation

BY DORA GROTE | SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa Student Government leaders and a student candidate for the Iowa City City Council clashed Monday over whether the candidate was forced to resign from his UISG post.

Raj Patel and his campaign staff say he was forced to resign as UISG’s council liaison by student and administrative officials, but student government leaders say Patel is playing victim as a campaign move.

“I think it’s clear now that [this resignation] was a political decision made by Raj and his campaign team,” said Kevin Paulsen, a UISG executive associate. “I believe it was a strategy that Raj and his campaign team formulated so that Raj would appear to be the underdog in the race and set up the campaign as a battle between Raj Patel, UI student, and the administration when that is by no means what was going on whatsoever.”

Paulsen said UISG gave Patel the option of a leave of absence during a meeting Sunday afternoon, which would allow him to return to his position if he was not elected to the City Council.

UISG officials said they felt a leave of absence was necessary in light of their ambitious platform goals, which requires a great deal of commitment from their council liaison, who is paid by student fees and state money.

“We came up with the idea of a leave of absence as a best-case scenario for everyone — we thought that protected Raj and gave him the opportunity to return to his job in the event that his campaign were unsuccessful he would have the option of coming back and returning to his position,” Paulsen said. “We were giving him the opportunity to focus solely on his campaign, because we know how demanding that process is.”

However, Patel said, he made it clear to UISG officials he could balance the workload between his two positions.

“I made it clear I could do both things. I even dropped a class,” Patel said. “I never once said I couldn’t juggle both things.”

Patel said UISG was receiving tremendous pressure from the UI administration to force his resignation.

“If I didn’t take the leave of absence, then the UISG would find something in a few weeks that would call for my resignation,” Patel said.

Campaign supporters said Patel’s resignation as student liaison was completely involuntary.

“There is nothing advantageous for us to have him resign,” said Mike Charles, Patel’s campaign manager. “It is on all of his documents that he is student liaison for the City Council … If he was going to resign, then we would have put out a letter of resignation.”

UI spokesman Tom Moore said there was no urging or prompting by UI administrators for Patel to resign.

Navi Bajwa, the UISG chief of staff, said a meeting was held with Patel’s campaign staff after he announced his resignation, in which Charles agreed to email him with a joint statement stating the resignation was Raj’s own decision. Bajwa said UISG officials received no email.

“The next day instead of receiving the joint statement [in the email], we read in the Press-Citizen that we pressured him to resign,” Bajwa said.

“I would also like to reiterate that this was a political strategy used by Raj and his campaigning to garner student support under the false pretense he was somehow a victim of the administration or student government,” Bajwa said.

Patel said it has been a very emotional couple of days because UISG has played a significant role in his UI experience.

“I have always done everything with the best interest and heart,” Patel said.

But the UISG officials said they feel they were more than fair to him.

“We feel like we bent over backwards. We said he would have the opportunity that he would have his job back if he lost,” Bajwa said. “We think that’s something most organizations would not do.”

Charles denied Patel’s resignation was a campaign move Monday evening.

“I don’t understand, we’ve done nothing but tell the truth, and that’s all we can do,” Charles said.


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