After five days of deliberating, the Student Government (SG) Supreme Court unanimously found president- and vice-president-elect Moneer Kheireddine and Shaquille Kent guilty of a major grievance, thereby disqualifying the ticket.
“I’m disappointed in the court’s opinion,” Kheireddine said. “I believe they applied the law incorrectly and respectfully disagree with the decision made. The students have spoken on who they wish to have as their representatives by an overwhelming majority.
“Our ticket won by over 2,320 more votes than the other party. I think that speaks volumes on its own.”
The grievance in question involves Dika Ezevillo, a USF student employee and a member of the Kheireddine and Kent campaign team, wearing his employee nametag while campaigning. According to the court opinion, the claim that he violated this rule went uncontested, and the trial was focused on whether wearing it was an abuse of position.
“The actions of Mr. Ezevillo qualified as an abuse of a position held at the university, which is within his official capacity,” the opinion states. “It was confirmed that the action in question for a fact happened on more than one occasion.
“The court deliberated and came to the consensus that the use of a name tag of a university job while actively campaigning for a ticket is considered an abuse of the official capacity of the office represented, especially, if the individual is part of the official campaign staff.”
Kheireddine said he will file for an appeal with the dean of students, Danielle McDonald. She issued a statement saying they have 24 hours to do so.
According to the opinion, Ezevillo was functioning within his official capacity by wearing his nametag and — in a separate instance — wearing a polo from the Office of Career Services by stating that a “physical display of the garment” is enough to classify somebody as representing that office.
The court was also challenged with determining what counts as “abuse” to determine whether Ezevillo’s actions could be counted as such.
“After extensive discussion on the matter, there was an agreement among the members of the court that if one has access to a resource that is not readily or easily available to any other student, and utilized such resources during campaigning, then that is considered to be an abuse of their access to those said resources,” the opinion states.
It concludes by stating that the court felt there is not requirement for the election results to have been impacted or for the “wrongdoer” to have intended to break statutes.
As Kheireddine and Kent’s ticket is currently classified as disqualified, the runners-up Ryan Soscia and Logan Holland are now president- and vice president-elect, respectively.
Soscia could not be reached for comment.
“I am thankful to announce that justice has been served," he said in a Facebook post following the decision. “While there is still a chance the court decision will be appealed to the Dean of Students, I feel it is my obligation as a student leader to start working on these things immediately so that the student body is not hurt by the red tape surrounding this election.”
This is not the first time in recent history that an SG election has gone to the dean’s office. In 2014, Jean Cocco was disqualified by the Election Rules Committee for a series of minor grievances, including using former Gov. Charlie Christ on campaign materials, passively campaigning at a polling location and not having the voting link on campaign materials.
Ultimately, the then dean of students, Michael Freeman, decided on March 26, 2014 that Cocco would be the student body president after he won the popular vote.
Initially, seven major grievances were filed against the candidates; four against Kheireddine and Kent, and three against Soscia and Holland. All but one of the grievances was dismissed. The one grievance that went to trial against Kheireddine and Kent could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
In her statement, McDonald said the goal, even with an appeal, would be to have an SG president and vice president sworn in by 5 p.m. on April 21.
McDonald stated that, after filing for appeal, both parties, along with the Chief Justice, have five business days to turn in any evidence or statements for consideration. Based on her timeline, all such material would be in by April 20, she will present a decision by 3 p.m. the following day and the ticket would be sworn in at 4:30.
Should this timeline not take place, the SG Senate would decide the new executive branch leaders based on a statute referred to as Selection of Last Resort.
Under this statute, if there is not a decision within 10 days of spring commencement, it becomes the responsibility of the senate to decide.