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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

ASUA court weighs appeals

The ASUA Supreme Court heard the official appeals of James Allen and Daniel Hernandez, who were both disqualified from the student body presidential race on March 9.

The cases pitted Allen and Hernandez against Michael Colletti, in his capacity as elections commissioner for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. Hernandez chose not to exercise his right to counsel, electing to represent himself, but Gary Ford Spector, an attorney who has an office on Stone Avenue, represented Allen.

Andrew Stanley, a UA law student, represented Colletti.

Colletti charged Hernandez with a total of 11 violation checks for five separate election violations, including allegations that he and members of his slate, “”Team Red,”” sent unsolicited text messages to random phone numbers and that a member of his campaign staff violated the ASUA Elections Code by wearing a campaign T-shirt in the ASUA offices. Other violation charges said slate members were handing out fliers in the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center, that slate candidates were campaigning within 75 feet of a polling station in violation of the Elections Code, and that Hernandez himself wore a “”Team Red”” T-shirt as the “”Learn Without Concern”” gun forum, which violates the code provision against campaigning at ASUA-sponsored events.

At least one of those violations was filed by Bryan Ponton, a journalism junior and executive vice president-elect, and another was filed by Hector Araujo, a presidential candidate eliminated in the primary elections who openly supported James Allen, wearing a shirt supporting him and his slate to the election results reveal event on March 9.

The names of the people filing violation complaints were redacted in the documents obtained by the Arizona Daily Wildcat via a public records request.

Hernandez said Colletti “”overstepped his bounds”” as elections commissioner in regards to the first violation because he did not present Hernandez or his slate members with information to determine the veracity of the violation, namely who filed the complaint and the number from which the text messages were sent.

“”The information that was presented to me as a candidate was not enough to show any violation of the code,”” Hernandez said.

Hernandez also said he should not be responsible for the conduct of all the people he and his slate mates gave T-shirts to, since they specifically told them the rules regarding where they could wear the shirts.

Stanley, Colletti’s counsel, rebutted that point and said that during the course of the interview with the person in question, who was unaffiliated with Hernandez’s campaign, she said she was unaware that wearing the shirt in the ASUA offices was prohibited.

Erik Lundstrom, a political science sophomore and ASUA senator-elect, testified that the woman was wearing a shirt that bore his name, not Hernandez’s, and that she was a personal friend of his.

Lundstrom also testified that he and another slate candidate, psychology junior Monica Ruiz, were the ones allegedly leaving fliers on tables in the ILC, but that they had only left them in study rooms adjacent to the computer lab, not in the computer lab itself which was the basis of the violation. Lundstrom said that over the course of the campaign Team Red distributed more than 9,000 pieces of slate campaign material and that he thought it was “”unreasonable”” for Colletti to hold the slate responsible for every piece.

Stanley said the code gives Colletti broad powers to interpret what constitutes a violation.

“”The commissioner is not a dictator and he’s not given dictator powers,”” Stanley said. “”But he is given powers to maintain a smooth running of the election with the limited resources available to him.””  

Justice Brian Chase asked Stanley if he thought a campaign was responsible for what people elect to do with their materials, and Stanley replied that he did.

“”I understand Mr. Hernandez’s frustration, but we simply can’t have these kinds of violations,”” Stanley said.  

Spector, Allen’s counsel, took a sweeping approach to rebuking Allen’s violations, arguing that the lack of clear and convincing evidence of them was tantamount to constructive fraud on Colletti’s part. Spector presented several sworn affidavits containing testimony rebutting the accusations against Allen.

Allen and his slate are accused of leaving campaign materials in the U-Mart, going door to door in Coronado Residence Hall soliciting votes and pressuring the members of Alpha Delta Pi sorority to vote for them. Colletti also alleges that a member of the slate’s campaign staff went to a club meeting with a list of candidates to vote for and an open laptop and gave coercive suggestions to them.

Colletti confirmed that Hernandez filed at least one of the violations levied against Allen.  

Spector vehemently denied that Allen had been in Coronado on the date of the alleged violation, March 8.

Justice Emily Ward mentioned that Coronado has security cameras and asked Spector if evidence of that nature would be convincing. Spector responded that if Colletti had that sort of evidence he would have presented it to the court.    

Colletti said that regardless of the number of checks the court chose to levy against Allen after the appeal, Allen’s actions still justified disqualification in his mind.

Spector said this was evidence that Colletti “”saw the writing on the wall”” and was attempting to change his argument since he knew the court would overturn checks against Allen.

The court did not render a verdict in either case. Under the rules of the court, the appellants must be made aware of the court’s decision within 24 hours.

When asked after the hearing how he approached complaints made by one candidate against another, Colletti said he treated those like any other complaint he receives and looks at each independently. 

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