Honi can reveal that the USU’s President, Tara Waniganayaka is proposing a motion determining whether the Board will press $50,000 of legal costs on former Vice President Tom Raue. This is in addition to another motion put by Waniganayaka against Union Vice-President Bebe D’Souza—both motions will be considered at this Friday’s board meeting. Raue was involved in a fracas with the Board in 2013 after he leaked information to Honi Soit that uncovered the close relationship between the University and police on campus—a relationship that had until then been denied. When the Raue saga first unfolded it was revealed that while crying poor about the release of “confidential” USU communications, the Union’s CEO, Andrew Woodward was giving Michael Spence the inside scoop on Raue.
Eventually, after a prolonged campaign, Board Directors voted to keep Raue on Board in 2014—but not before a brief court stoush. The Union called in the artillery for the action, retaining Senior Counsel and racking up significant legal fees. Raue lost the court action, and a costs order was made against him, giving the Union the right to pursue him for their legal fees which, over a year later, they are now considering, to the tune of $50,000.
Raue told Honi that he is “not wealthy and cannot cover the costs.” And that if the Union chooses to pursue costs, such action would bankrupt him “ruining my life.” He however told Honi that he stood by his actions, as they were in the “public interest”. Honi understands that the proposed motion would sanction the use of legal mechanisms if Raue is unable to pay the costs—this would likely mean an application to the court to have Raue declared bankrupt. Honi further understands that some board directors have been told they have a fiduciary duty to press costs on Raue—or at least to consider the motion. If that is the case they have likely been given poor counsel—while directors do owe a fiduciary duty to the Union, all that really means is that they have to act in the Union’s best interests, the mechanisms of how that duty is played out are fraught. Given the Union knows that Raue would be unable to pay any costs pursued against him, the result of any bankruptcy action against Raue would do no more than impose greater legal costs on the Union, and, punish Raue for speaking out of turn.
Last year, enough Board Directors, including Waniganayaka seemed to agree on that conception of fiduciary duties when they voted to keep Raue on the Board. It will raise eyebrows if those Directors, who were last year anxious about the impending election for USU executive, were to vote to bankrupt Raue. It may well be the case that the Union has to consider the costs as a matter of procedure, but as Honi understands the vote is already set against Raue—the vote is likely to be tied 6-6, with Waniganayaka—the motion’s proposer, holding the casting vote as President. As Raue is not a member of the Union, and is no longer a student, as it stands he is unable to attend either the meeting concerning the motion on Friday, or the Union’s AGM, to be held tomorrow.
Alexi Polden was heavily involved in last year’s Stand with Raue campaign, and has previously written on the subject for Honi Soit.