Apr 272009
 
Authors: Madeline Novey

Student government passed legislation last week that prevents any person from submitting an anonymous election complaint against a particular campaign to the Elections Committee to inject more transparency into the complaint process.

Supporters of the bill said future campaigns receiving complaint will now have better understanding of their criticisms, enabling them a more solid defense in grievance cases.

But they also acknowledged that the policy could deter people from submitting complaints for fear of retribution.

“The reason people don’t like to file (complaints) is because when they want a position in the cabinet next year they don’t want that to come back,” said Zane Guilfoyle, the 2009 Elections Committee manager for the Associated Students of CSU, who submitted the measure, but acknowledged that there are pros and cons to it.

The newly elected ASCSU president and vice president are responsible in the spring for hiring their cabinet — which includes the chief of staff and director positions — and Guilfoyle said bad blood between them and plaintiffs could lead to hiring biases.

Andrew Ives and Jordan Von Bokern, the two intra-university senators who wrote the legislation, said the original bill was written to provide the accused with unedited complaint text but that anonymity was to be maintained.

After sitting in on the majority of Elections Committee complaint hearings, Ives and Von Bokern said they thought defendants should be able to see the filed complaint in its original form so they could present a fair and reasonable defense and have more context to do so.

“I saw at least that some of the (defendants) weren’t necessarily prepared because they didn’t know what the complaint said,” Ives said. “They knew the location of the violation and what they violated.”

Ives did not support the amendment, but Von Bokern did, saying he was “very pleasantly surprised” the bill passed 15-1-7.

In “U.S. criminal court you have the right to be faced by your accuser,” he said.

When asked if eliminating anonymity would hinder the democratic process Guilfoyle said, “That’s interesting. I feel like if there was a huge rule that was broken it will prevent a person from filing.” He added, however, that this would depend on how outspoken an individual was and if they were willing to go on the record.

He said the legislation could result in one of two scenarios: It would either “fuel more complaints or the complaints will go down in number.” He further explained opponents and their supporters may file “retaliation complaints” after learning the names of those who submitted complaints against their campaign.

Von Bokern opposed Guilfoyle’s position.

“If you feel a complaint is legitimate, you shouldn’t be afraid to put your name behind it,” he said, saying he didn’t think the bill would deter people from reporting campaign offenses.

While all three couldn’t be sure who submitted complaints in the 2009 election because they were anonymous, they said they could assume the majority came from ASCSU members, most of whom pledged allegiance to a particular campaign.

ASCSU President Elect Dan Gearhart said he had no comment on the effects of the legislation because he “had just come out of the election.”

Taylor Smoot, the current ASCSU president, said, “I think that the way it was before was wrong and unconstitutional,” noting that this legislation was something that he had been advocating for over the years.

“Anybody who is persecuting you, you have the right to know who that person is .” he said, saying that the anonymous complaints were a violation of due process as defined by the U.S. Constitution.

Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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