The Associated Students Judicial Council did not charge two Student Action Coalition (SAC) candidates for violating campaign rules in last spring’s election, citing insufficient evidence against the accused.
On Wednesday night, council members heard a case against SAC candidates Raymond Meza and Delaina Contreras. Justin Pabian, author of the petition, alleged that Meza and Contreras had illegally posted two SAC signs, which he said are considered campaign literature, in the Davidson Library 24-hour study room window on March 14. Pabian, the Students’ Party (SP) campaign manager, also alleged the two illegally used a coffee pot bought with A.S. money to serve coffee to students studying in the room.
Judicial Council member Nina Tringali said there was inadequate proof Meza and Contreras posted the signs or brought an A.S. coffee pot. However, she said the signs posted on the window were considered literature, making the actions of those responsible in violation of the A.S. Legal Code.
“I don’t feel comfortable charging [Meza and Contreras],” Tringali said. “If the brief had said SAC [was responsible] we could have fined them… That’s the problem with the entire situation. How do you hold them accountable when you don’t have proof of specific people?”
According to the legal code, distributing campaign literature is prohibited until 12 a.m. of the first day of the second week of Spring Quarter, which would have been April 4 this year. The legal code also states that funds allocated by A.S. may not be “used in any way to promote, support, endorse, publicize or announce” individual candidates or a slate of candidates. Signs may not be affixed to University buildings, the legal code also states.
In her testimony before the council, which exists to enforce A.S. bylaws and interpret the legal code, Contreras denied posting the SAC signs to the library’s window. She said, however, such signs should not be considered a violation of the legal code.
“What is literature?” Contreras asked the council. “Is it a sign with just a name? Is that literature? Nowhere does it say a sign itself is literature. You may read into it that a sign is campaigning.”
The legal code states that campaigning, but not specifically campaigning by literature, may commence after the candidates’ information meeting, which was held on March 4 this year, Pabian said.
Current Off-Campus Rep. Gina Fischer (SP), one of the witnesses listed on Pabian’s complaint, said she saw Meza, along with several SAC candidates, in the study room by the table where the SAC signs and coffee pot were. She said she informed Adam Graff, 2004-05 Leg Council Off-Campus Rep., of what she had seen.
After speaking with Fischer, Graff said he went to the library and took pictures of the signs, coffee pot and Contreras sitting by the table. Beside a sign with “Student Action Coalition” written on it, a sign that says, “SAC: Help yourselves to Coffee/tea” is shown by the table in Graff’s picture.
A.S. Student Lobby Chair Lance Tackett defended Meza and Contreras, saying he had brought the coffee pot from the Student Lobby office. He said, however, that he was unsure whether the pot had been bought with A.S. funds. Another member of Student Lobby had bought the coffee pot, but may not have been reimbursed for it, he said. Without receipts of the coffee pot’s purchase, Pabian had no proof it was bought with A.S. funds, Tackett said.
After deliberating, Judicial Council members decided the signs were considered literature and were therefore in violation of the legal code, Tringali said. The council also decided there was insufficient proof the coffee pot had been bought with A.S. funds.
The council did not fine Meza or Contreras for the violation, but Tringali said she recommends a change in the legal code to avoid campaigning problems in the future. Each candidate currently posts a $35 bond. Money is detracted from this account if the candidate violates election rules. Tringali said parties should be made to post a bond as a group. If a party violates the rules, money will be detracted from this collective pool, she said.
Pabian said the legal code already states that all candidates are responsible for the actions taken by any individual party member. He could not charge SAC as a whole, however, because the legal code currently does not allow parties to be fined as a group.
“I’m satisfied with the council’s ruling, but I wish they would’ve taken the next step and hold the candidates responsible for their friends as the legal code states,” Pabian said. “However, in the end I have the satisfaction of knowing [Student’s Party] won the election in a clean campaign.”