USF’s Student Government, the Board of Trustees and the campaign of Mike Mincberg and Christi Clements have reached an agreement that will allow the ticket to re-enter the race three weeks after it was disqualified.
Mincberg and Clements were booted from the race for student body president and vice president after Election Rules Commissioner Andrew Read found their campaign logo was too similar to SG’s. The logo was made up of the letters M and C — the first name initials of Mincberg and Clements — that had bullhorns affixed to the sides in a manner similar to USF’s new athletic mark.
In simple terms, the agreement, Read said, “states that they won’t sue us if we let them back in.”
Mincberg and Clements will also have to abandon the use of their logo, and the ten points assessed by the ERC will be removed, the agreement states.
Mincberg said Tuesday he was disappointed that the incident took place to begin with, as he and Clements have lost ground on the campaign trail. But there are still two weeks until the election, and he still thinks he and his running mate have a shot.
“It’s frustrating because it’s definitely taken a lot out of us, but we still have enough support that we can still win it,” Mincberg said. “We’re just going to have to work ten times harder.”
And he and Clements have wasted no time. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, they had already begun to erect signs on campus and pass out some of their 5,000 flyers.
The timing is good, too. The Black Student Union is sponsoring a debate for the candidates tonight at 7 in CPR 127, and Mincberg and Clements will take part in it.
A statement released by Jarrod Ali, SG attorney general, late Tuesday said that the rule originally used to disqualify Mincberg and Clements is unenforceable. In his statement, Ali said paragraph 0.2.1 of the Election Rules Commission Rules of Procedure is “not written to precisely enforce the intent of the rule.” But Ali said the decision to readmit the candidates was not prompted by fear of legal action.
“We were not forced to reconsider our decision because it is a matter of consistency as far as the ability for the candidates to properly follow the rules,” Ali said. “In my review of the rule in question, I found that the rule did not apply under this particular circumstance after reviewing it.”
Read is torn about the case, though. Just three weeks ago, he said it was closed. He had made a ruling that was backed by USF’s supreme court. Now that he and the campaign have reached what he terms a “good faith” agreement, he knows that some will say the power of SG and its court have been undermined.
“Is it undermining? You can look at it that way,” Read said.
But Read said after studying other cases that involved trademark law, he realized, with the help of USF’s General Counsel, that legally he didn’t have a leg to stand on.
“I don’t have the jurisdiction to do trademark law. No one in SG does. Only a judge,” Read said. “They were going to win if it went to court.”
Mincberg knows a thing or two about law. At his appeal to the SG supreme court, he brought along a fraternity brother who is a practicing lawyer and who wrote up a brief for court. And his father, Elliot Mincberg, is a Washington attorney who specializes in constitutional and civil rights.
The elder Mincberg was quick to submit to the Board of Trustees a 2,000-plus-word appeal that threatened to sue the university if the decision wasn’t reversed.
And his son was thankful, but if it weren’t his father giving him legal aid, Mincberg said he would’ve found someone else to help him out. In fact, he said, lawyers were calling him and volunteering to take the case if it went to court.
“My dad doesn’t have a license in Florida. (The lawyers) were confident enough that they’d only get paid if they won,” Mincberg said.
As for Read, he sees the agreement as a potential problem averted. The last thing he said he wanted was to be faced with a suit that would hold certain members of SG — including himself and supreme court chief justice Dustin Sachs — personally liable.
“When someone sues someone, everyone gets sued,” he said. “We let them back in; I get my wish, and they can’t use the logo.”