Grievances tossed, Diaz named president-elect

After nearly a day of deliberation, the Student Government (SG) Election Rules Committee (ERC) rejected all four grievances filed against student body presidential and vice presidential winners Matthew Diaz and Zachary Johnson Wednesday.

Tuesday, the ERC heard grievances presented by the opposing tickets, but needed an extra day to formulate public responses, Supervisor of Elections Andrew Uhlir said.

President-elect Diaz said he and Johnson maintained their innocence throughout the grievance process.

“I’m ecstatic this whole process is over,” Diaz said. “My campaign ran an ethical (and) clean campaign and we followed every rule, every (Rule of Procedure).”

Students voted in the SG elections Monday through Thursday of last week. Diaz-Johnson were named the election winners hours after polls closed. Johnson said the quiet atmosphere of the election process did not prepare him for the grievances that followed.

“We were definitely slighted,” Johnson said. “We didn’t necessarily know we were going to get over 51 percent of the vote – so we were totally surprised by that. But having the grievances filed last minute like that, we weren’t (expecting) anything like that to happen. To that point the election was pretty quiet.”

The ERC ruled that video evidence presented by the Jason Funes-James O’Connor ticket to prove that the Diaz-Johnson “Total Bull Movement” campaign chalked in a restricted area could not be substantiated.

“Though video evidence was given showing Total Bull Movement chalk in an unauthorized location, there were no individuals present in the video and thus no way to confirm who did the chalking … and (whether it was) not a forgery committed by someone unassociated with the campaign,” the ERC ruling said.

The ERC dismissed Funes-O’Connor’s second grievance, which claimed that Diaz-Johnson campaigned within 50 feet of a polling station, due to insufficient evidence. One of the pieces of evidence provided was another video.

“There was, in fact, a man with flyers in hand, though the flyers could not be recognized as Diaz-Johnson flyers, and at no time did he appear to hand them to any person walking by from the time Mr. Funes indicates,” the ERC ruling said.

The Melissa Leddy-Christina McLaughlin ticket’s grievance that claimed Diaz-Johnson slid materials under doors in the Juniper-Poplar residence hall was also thrown out for lack of evidence.

“Resident Assistant minutes for Wednesday, February 23 were mentioned in the grievance form. No record of minutes was ever presented to the ERC before or during the grievance hearing,” the ERC ruling said. “Melissa Leddy also mentioned three residents as eye witnesses, though no official written statements from these candidates were given for verification. The ERC therefore feels that these names are not sufficient enough evidence to back the violation.”

Insufficient evidence was also cited for Leddy-McLaughlin’s claim that Diaz-Johnson set up mobile polling stations, soliciting for students to vote for the ticket immediately with a portable computer or cell phone.

“The email from the Assistant Residence Life Coordinator, Caitlin Kirchner, gives a recap of the events that took place at Juniper Poplar,” the ERC ruling said. “No part of the letter shows evidence of the campaign in question that there was a mobile polling station. Though other potential university policy violations were stated in the email, they dealt with housing policies, etc. and are not related to the probable violation at hand.”

Funes said one of the ERC’s decisions caught him by surprise.

“I’m kind of shocked to be honest with you, at least with the one explicit one that I know about,” he said. “Handing out flyers underneath (student dorm room) doors (seemed worthy of being legitimate).”

Chris Leddy, Melissa and McLaughlin’s campaign manager, said the ticket will likely appeal the ERC’s rulings.

“I don’t really agree with the ERC’s ruling,” he said. “I think we might appeal the ERC’s ruling on this.”

Chris said the decision to appeal or not would ultimately be Melissa’s, who could not be reached for comment.

McLaughlin and Chris said they have not had an opportunity to meet to discuss an appeal.

“I’m glad the ERC took a little time to review it rather than dismiss it right away,” McLaughlin said. “Obviously I don’t agree with their rulings, but I’m glad they took more time with it than I anticipated.”

Funes said he wasn’t sure if he would appeal.

“I’m going to keep an open ear to any available positions (in the USF administration or SG),” he said. “As much as I have found out about this administration, I’m very displeased at how this administration considers its academic success towards students as this University is so set on achieving accolades rather than focusing on student success. I think its SG’s role to advocate for the students to the University.”

After learning the results of the hearing, Diaz said he can now focus on preparing himself to fulfill the role of student body president. He said a desire to familiarize himself with the current dialogues of the Board of Trustees and the Florida Student Association is high on his to-do list.

“Right now it’s really just getting the transition team ready for SG and start getting to know the ropes so day one we can hit the ground running and learn everything I don’t already know about SG,” Diaz said.