Cocco appeals hearing today

On March 19, 2014


While the student body elections ended before spring break, the Student Government (SG) Supreme Court will meet today for a hearing that could decide who the next USF student body president will be.

After the public hearing, which will take place in the Senate Chambers on the fourth floor of the Marshall Student Center (MSC) at 5:30 p.m., the court will have to choose whether to overturn or uphold the campaign violations that the Election Rules Commission (ERC) issued to the campaign of Jean Cocco and Rhondel Whyte.

Cocco previously received 48 percent of the 4,928 votes in the general election, and 52 percent of the 3,651 votes in the run-off election, but his competitor Brandi Arnold, who received 39 percent of the first vote and 48 percent of the run-off vote, was named the president-elect by the ERC after the commission charged Cocco’s campaign with four campaign violations.

“We’re going into the hearing with a mandate from the students,” Cocco said. “… We’re going to have to win a third time.”

Cocco said he thinks he has a good defense for his case, which he said was assessed “without due process” and “wrought with procedural errors.”

The violations found against the Cocco campaign include one for a non-working link on his campaign website, one for using former Gov. Charlie Crist to promote his campaign, one for “passive campaigning” by a campaign member wearing a T-shirt in the SG Computer Services lab and one for the assessed improper use of Activity and Services (A&S) fees for campaign materials, through printing in the MSC Tech Smart.

While the ERC’s official opinion states that “free prints are A&S fee-funded privileges for all registered student organizations, even non-A&S funded organizations,” Cocco said if A&S fees were used to print his campaign materials, which he printed through the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity’s account, then it was through a non-existent “shadow” policy – which he said is in violation of SG statutes that prohibits Greek organizations from receiving A&S funds.

Throughout the grievance process and hearing by the ERC, Cocco said he felt “guilty until proven innocent” in what he called a “witch hunt.”

According to SG statutes, the Supreme Court has until two days after the hearing to make a ruling.

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