The Supreme Court has paved the way for the University of Sydney Union (USU) Board of Directors to expel their own Vice President Tom Raue, ordering him to pay all legal costs.
Justice Geoffrey Bellew handed down a decision last Monday removing the injunction that has prevented the Board from voting to expel Raue since November last year.
USU President Hannah Morris, Honorary Treasurer Sophie Stanton and Honorary Secretary John Harding-Easson, who, with Raue, make up the Board Executive, moved to expel Raue in September 2013. They alleged he had committed “serious misconduct” by the deliberate disclosure of information contained in a confidential report to Honi Soit regarding the police presence on campus during the 2013 staff strikes.
The move to expel Raue was not the first time he had been at loggerheads with the Board. In August 2012, Raue was censured for denouncing pro-life society LifeChoice and the USU-run Interfaith Week.
Justice Bellew found, contrary to the arguments presented by Raue’s counsel, that the USU Constitution and Regulations both carry the power for the Board to remove a director. He also stated that the decision of whether or not Raue ought to be removed was up to the Board, not the courts.
Raue said he was disappointed by the verdict, but not surprised. “It was always a long shot,” he said. “I think it’s important that although the judge ruled that the Board has the power to remove me, he did not say that I committed misconduct.”
Hannah Morris said the USU was satisfied with the judgment and pleased the case had been concluded.
Justice Bellew also ordered Raue to pay courts costs for all the defendants with the exception of Board director Bebe D’Souza, who is from the same political faction as Raue and went unrepresented for the duration of the case.
Morris declined to comment on what court costs would amount to and said the Board is yet to determine whether Raue will be required to pay as per the court’s order. “The current USU Board is considering its options in this regard,” she said.
Having now cleared the legal hurdle to expelling Raue from the Board, the next step for Morris, Stanton and Harding-Easson is likely to be proposing a motion for his removal.
A number of students have mobilised to support Raue, planning to attend the scheduled Board meeting this Friday at which the motion may be put.
Morris was circumspect when asked about the predicted outcome of such a vote, and did not respond when asked how she personally would vote. “Board Directors are afforded the right to independently vote on any motions put before them and I cannot presume what their decisions will be,” she said.
Raue said he could not predict what his chances of remaining on Board are. “I just hope that people see the senselessness of firing me for doing what I was elected to do,” he said.
All student Board directors who responded to requests for comment declined to say whether they would vote to expel Raue or not. Senate-appointed director Emma McDonald did not comment on whether she would vote at all.
If the Board does vote to remove Raue, he will retain a potential channel of appeal via the Sydney University Senate. According to USU regulations, directors removed under Special Resolution carry the right to appeal the decision to the Sydney University Senate, who can then override the Board.
However, Raue is uncertain about whether this is an avenue of appeal he would pursue. “I have to consider all possibilities, but I am wary of involving the Senate since they already have too much influence over the USU,” he said.
If Raue is removed from Board, Jeremy Elphick, who was the highest ranked candidate to miss out on a director position in the 2013 election, will be offered Raue’s place on Board. Elphick has confirmed to Honi Soit that he will accept the position and has strongly denounced the move to expel Raue.
“[The Board] would essentially be getting someone with fairly similar political beliefs as Raue after having spent an inordinate amount of time removing or at least attempting to remove him in an action that has given the Union a significantly worse reputation than anything that he has ever done to it,” Elphick said. “Raue has been a very effective Board Director who has been working well towards a lot of his promises in terms of transparency.”