On Thursday, Associated Students officials publicly challenged allegations of property damages incurred by its Legislative Council during a weekend retreat at a private villa rented with student fees. The property managers, however, have since disputed several of the claims made by A.S. last week.
At the press conference, A.S. distributed a report contesting several of the accusations levied in an e-mail by Morrocco Method International, the corporation that owns Villa Antonio. Additionally, A.S. responded to a Daily Nexus financial information request from Feb. 2 for itemized receipts of the retreat’s costs, which totaled $3,691.44.
In the original Jan. 21 email sent by Villa Antonio to university officials detailing the damages, the owners listed a total of $970.80 in damages, including fees for extra house cleaning, vomit removal, new ceiling lights, paint touch-ups, fence repairs, a torn-out elephant wall piece and an extra trash run to dispose of alcohol bottles.
The company also stated that the students left behind 40 beer cans, five handles of hard liquor — 1.75 liters each — and a quart of Jack Daniels.
“The villa was absolutely trashed, it was left in filthy and in horrible condition,” Office Manager Tristin McGuffick wrote in the e-mail. “Had we known that this is the type of ‘retreat’ you were hosting we would not have rented to you.”
According to A.S. Attorney Robin Unander, A.S. is challenging $690 of the damages attributed to extra house cleaning, vomit removal, paint touch-ups and the extra trash run.
Allegations that members of Legislative Council were drinking during the official retreat, which was held Jan. 8-10, are being investigated, A.S. Executive Director Marisela Marquez said.
On Friday, MMI Marketing Director Richard Johnston contested several of the claims made at the A.S. press conference. In an e-mail, Johnston wrote that “obvious facts are being put into a state of denial.” Johnston said the photographs sent to the university, which include alcohol bottles and vomit, were taken on Jan. 11, the morning after the students departed the villa.
“When our cleaning crew arrived the day after [A.S.’s] check out they immediately called our office saying ‘You better come down here as the Villa is trashed and there is a lot of visible damage,'” Johnston wrote. “They did not even want to start cleaning the Villa until we had come down to inspect and document such abusive behavior.”
According to Johnston, alcohol must have played a major role in the damages incurred.
“There is no denying any of our claims as they are very clearly visible,” Johnston wrote. “Vomit, booze and urine are not a normal trail that one leaves behind on public floors, carpets and gardens.”
At the press conference, however, Unander said that while having alcohol on the retreat would be a breach of university policy, the contract for the villa does not prohibit legal alcohol consumption.
“We understand that there is a breach of the university’s policy in having alcohol there, allegedly there,” Unander said. “There is nothing in the contract that prohibits having alcohol there. For example, the way the contract is written, if everyone there is over 21 and wanted to have cocktail beverages at the end of the event, there is nothing in the contract that prohibits that from happening.”
Marquez said she was unaware of the ages of those attending the retreat, and had no statistical information on the birthdates of individual Legislative Council members.
“I’m not going to provide you with their ages,” Marquez said. “I have no way of verifying these demographics. The investigation is continuing into this matter.”
According to the A.S. report, Student Government Advisor Charity Agomuo — the staff member in attendance at the retreat — claimed she did not see any alcoholic beverages throughout the weekend.
While the letter from MMI demanded payment for cleaning up vomit, A.S.’s document also states that none of the students reported vomiting at the villa.
The A.S. evaluation also featured a narrative of the weekend’s events prepared by Agomuo. She detailed teambuilding activities and discussions of future Legislative Council business, and also wrote that after a walkthrough she “did not believe the house was trashed or left in a filthy condition… leaving on Sunday, the staff member was actually quite proud and glad that the retreat went well.”
The report also noted one instance of confirmed damage in the villa — a ceiling light that needed to be replaced.
“A student reported he damaged [the lamp] on Sunday 1/10/2010 morning, that he broke this lamp, while putting his shirt on,” the report states. “He explained he was forcing his arm through the sleeve and hit the lamp.”
Unander said that the allegations of damages are being explored.
“Were there damages? Perhaps,” Unander said. “We’re still investigating as to the extent of them, but that’s why deposits are there.”
Food, lodging and cleaning fees for the retreat tallied $3,691.44, although the university has yet to bill A.S. for use of a Suburban and two vans for transportation.
A.S. charged $841.44 for food and nonalcoholic beverages. No alcoholic beverages were listed on the itemized receipts.
The $2,850 paid to Villa Antonio amounts to $1,500 for two nights’ lodging, $350 for cleaning and a $1,000 refundable deposit, which has not been returned to A.S.
At the conclusion of the press conference, A.S. President Charlie Arreola declined to answer how A.S. planned to restore students’ trust in their elected representatives.
“I would prefer not to comment,” Arreola said. “I don’t want tidbits of information to come out. It’s already been manipulated and I would rather wait until everything is out, and then present what happened.”
The Thursday press conference — attended by reporters from the Nexus, KCSB and the A.S. newsletter The Bottom Line, as well as Unander, Marquez, Agomuo, Arreola and KCSB Advisor Elizabeth Robinson, who signed the departmental authorization for Marquez on the rental check form for the villa — marked the first time A.S. challenged the charges of breaching their contract with the owner since allegations emerged Tuesday.