Accusations swirl as decision on student body president nears

By Miki Shine, Managing Edior
On April 19, 2017

It has been 48 days since the polls closed and Moneer Kheireddine (right) was elected student body president. After grievances filed by Ryan Soscia (left), Kheireddine was disqualified, but is now appealing. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The current Student Government (SG) presidential campaign has been engulfed in controversy throughout the election, which has only escalated after the votes were counted.

A decision on former Student Body President-elect Moneer Kheireddine’s appeal of his ticket’s disqualification is expected to be released Friday, but new information regarding conduct during the election is still coming to light. 

A series of documents submitted in the appeals process accuse Student Body President- and Vice President-elect, Ryan Soscia and Logan Holland, of misconduct throughout their campaign.

In his appeal, Kheireddine accuses Chief Justice Milton Llinas of bias for not recusing himself when his roommate — Student Body Vice President Alec Waid — served as Soscia and Holland’s legal counsel.

He also argued that the statute his ticket was found in violation of, abuse of position, is vague as it could not be interpreted by the average student.

Finally, he accuses Soscia and Holland of witness tampering by bribery. 

Former senator Chris Johnson, who was a volunteer for Soscia and Holland’s ticket for a portion of the campaign, submitted a letter to Dean of Students Danielle McDonald supporting Kheireddine’s claim.

In Holland’s rebuttal, he states that Florida law does not require Llinas to step down, and that the action is left up to the individual justice to be involved in hearing a case. Additionally, he states that Llinas has sided against Waid in the past.

He argues the appeal isn’t the place to accuse a statute of being vague and that Kheireddine should have gone through proper channels if he felt that way.

Finally, Holland calls the claim of witness tampering “absurd” and that Johnson’s testimony would have been irrelevant during the trial, so he was not called to the stand. 

He claims the four witnesses they did call whose testimony was considered and whose testimony wasn’t based on employment only supported what others said.

Johnson’s letter to the Dean also included information not regarding the alleged bribe, but rather the influence of conservative Super PAC Turning Point USA (TP USA) in Soscia and Holland’s campaign.

The political action committee has been making moves into collegiate politics at Ohio State University, University of Maryland-Wisconsin and the University of Maryland through its “Campus Leadership Project.”

TP USA’s goal at the collegiate level is to influence student government races at universities across the country to elect conservative students, according to a report by The Ohio State Lantern.

“That ‘student leaders’ conference that Ryan and Logan went to in December and bragged about on Facebook? A Turning Point USA event, where they met their future financial contributors,” Johnson wrote. “The ‘family friends’ giving them killer deals on T-shirts and yard signs? Shell companies set up by Turning Point to get around campaign finance regulations.”

Soscia could not be reached for comment.

The conference Johnson mentions refers to a TP USA conference held in Palm Beach, where Soscia and Holland were photographed with Ohio State candidates Mary Honaker and Carla Garcia, who were found to be supported by TP USA, according to The Lantern.

In his rebuttal, Holland says TP USA is a student organization —it does have a chapter at USF that was officially founded this semester, according to a confirmation letter from TP USA’s national headquarters obtained by The Oracle — before bringing up Johnson’s past as a student and as a former senator being driven largely by encouraging divestment on campus.

Regardless, withholding information from the ERC or the Student Government Advising, Training and Operations is a major violation.

Both Holland and Johnson said Johnson’s volunteer work with the ticket ended after hearing its views on divestment.

Paige DePagter, Soscia and Holland’s original campaign manager, also submitted evidence against the ticket to the Dean. In her letter, she states that she left her position after the first week of campaigning when she wrote that she “saw a side of Soscia and Holland that I did not want to believe existed.”

DePagter wrote that, prior to departing, she received and was copied on correspondence with Alex Chorak, leadership director at The Campus Leadership Project, which included discussing a budget with the ticket and logo designs. 

She provided copies of these emails with her letter to the Dean and to Student Rights and Responsibilities “due to the nature and severity of the crimes.”

When called, Chorak hung up on The Oracle and sent subsequent calls directly to voicemail.

One of the emails from Chorak to Soscia and DePagter states the budget was taking longer to be approved because “it is roughly three times what the majority of schools are.”

“I am trying to explain that it is due to the importance, competition and the relative size of the school,” the email continued.

On Soscia and Holland’s expense report turned into SG, they claim to use a company called Underground Printing for T-shirts, tank tops, yard signs and A-frame vinyls. However, an email submitted into evidence by DePagter from Underground Printing employee Chris Barkham states the company did not have an order under Soscia or Holland’s name. 

With a formal decision expected Friday, the swirling controversy will soon come to an end. Due to the drawn-out process of reviewing evidence, Friday’s inauguration is slated to be moved to either Wednesday or April 28.

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