Apr 152008
 
Authors: J. David McSwane

A former chief justice for the student Supreme Court on Tuesday filed a rare appeal challenging the legitimacy of the recent student government presidential election, claiming negligence, preferential treatment and other alleged improprieties involving campaign finance rules.

For the first time in CSU history, the Associated Students of CSU is reviewing an official appeal of a presidential election, which could result in organizing another election, student government officials said.

Edward Modec, the student who filed the appeal with the ASCSU Supreme Court, accuses the Elections Committee of “blatant negligence and disregard (for the constitution)” and Elections Code in handling the campaign finance report for President-elect Taylor Smoot and his vice president, Quinn Girrens.

“This is the sloppiest I’ve ever seen the elections run,” said Modec, a member of ASCSU for the past four years. “Based on all the gross violations by the Election Committee . at this point, the election is invalid.

“Is a re-election necessary? Maybe.”

Although student government leaders refused to release the “Affadavit of Petitioner” publicly, the Collegian obtained a copy of the allegations Tuesday night.

Modec charges that Elections Manager Emily Laue and the Elections Committee “defied the ASCSU Constitution” in docking the fair market value of a free concert Smoot and Girrens hosted on the plaza last month to garner voter support – an expenditure Modec says should have ousted them from the ASCSU election.And the concert almost did. On April 2, Smoot and Girrens had to defend their ticket in a closed-door meeting with the Elections Committee after original estimates of the concert’s market value – $200 to $500 – placed the candidates beyond their spending limit.

But the Elections Committee ultimately valued the concert at $82.50, based on the value of the band Modus’ previous shows, leaving the candidates comfortably below their $2,000 spending limit mandated by ASCSU campaign policy. In his five-page appeal, Modec says the altered fair market value of the concert contradicts $200 to $500 Laue encouraged Smoot and Girrens to denote originally.

“I don’t think there’s much weight behind it,” Smoot said late Tuesday. “(Local band Modus) played for us for free. We gave (the elections committee) all the evidence, and they determined it to be legit.”

Modec says the Elections Committee also violated the ASCSU Constitution by failing to notify the Supreme Court for ratification of the special rule made for Smoot and Girrens, and for conducting the meeting behind closed doors. Article I, Section 108 of the ASCSU Constitution requires that “all ASCSU committees shall be open to the public,” except in the case of personnel or ongoing legal matters.

But the document was later leaked to the Collegian.

“It became public information the moment I gave it to Cari,” said Modec , Stepsay’s predecessor as chief justice. “They shouldn’t be able to tell you it’s private.”

And despite explicit ASCSU bylaws that prohibit closed door meetings, the Supreme Court plans to meet in private at 5:30 p.m. today to review the appeal.

Stepstay is required to give public notice and organize a public meeting to review the appeals and any counter appeals, according to ASCSU elections code.

Amid the new election process controversy, Smoot and his former contenders say they want to move on and that launching a new election and new campaigns would take a toll on campus and their health.

“That would make me sick to my stomach,” Smoot said. “We won by a record landslide, and we’re sick of campaigning . what do we have to do? Have a new election? . (Modec’s) just throwing a wrench in the whole system.”

“(The appeal’s) not even directed at us; it’s directed at the election process,” he added.

Zane Guilfoyle and Seth Walter, who lost their bid for the ASCSU president and vice president to Smoot and Girrens in the four-way contest, say Tuesday’s appeal leaves them asking if they could even handle another election.

“Emotionally, physically and psychologically, I don’t think I could put myself through that again,” Walter said. “It’s an interesting quagmire.”

Smoot, who is set to be sworn in as president June 1, is effectively a lame-duck president-elect until the ASCSU Supreme Court rules on the issue, Modec said.

And an empty seat in the role of president and vice president of ASCSU would severely inhibit student input in the student fee and tuition review process, Smoot said.

“Until further notice, I’m doing my job,” Smoot said. “Business as usual.”

Elections Manager Laue and Chief Justice Stepstay declined comment.

Editor-in-Chief J. David McSwane can be reached at editor@collegian.com.

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