Trustee candidates reprimanded for campaign violations

By Riley Roberts

With last Thursday’s announcement of official election returns, the vast majority of candidates and the student body have put this year’s race behind them. For several candidates, senators and members of the Student Election Commission, however, this year’s contentious election dragged on through yesterday afternoon.

“Overall, I think this year’s election was in some ways very positive, but also very negative,” said Ryan Ruzic, senior in LAS and student body president. “There were a lot of candidates who were really passionate about their races, but many used questionable tactics and violated the rules.”

A hearing was held with the election commission, which met for more than three hours yesterday afternoon to deliberate complaints and rule violations that were reported following the election. The commission eventually voted to certify the results of the Student Trustee and SORF Board races, but also reprimanded a few candidates for their conduct.

“Complaints were definitely up this year,” said Scott Bieniek, graduate student and election commission vice chairperson. “The more competitive the elections are, the more complaints we receive. … Students tend to lose sight of their personal morals in view of their ultimate goal, and they compromise those morals.”

This year, Ruzic said, the most significant complaints were filed against Trustee candidates Katie Dunne and Chime Asonye. Dunne’s paperwork was found to be problematic and incomplete. The election commission recognized her mistakes to be covered by a loophole and dismissed the charges, urging ISS to revise its regulations to prevent future problems.

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“Katie Dunne’s campaign also failed to tell the Daily Illini that the columnist who wrote the endorsement was her campaign manager,” Ruzic said. “Someone I know who worked for her said the campaign philosophy was basically that the person who wins is the person willing to do what their opponents aren’t. … I think it’s a shameful display of doing whatever it takes to win.”

Asonye, who won the race, was found to have used the ISS e-mail list to aid in his campaign, as well as printing campaign fliers using ISS equipment and resources.

Both offenses are explicitly against Senate bylaws and University regulations.

“I was in the office with Chime while he was printing (the fliers),” said Senator Amanda Palazzo, senior in ACES, who filed the formal complaint.

“He used ISS office printers and even printed them on the back of my homework … but when I filed the complaint, he said the accusations were baseless and claimed he only printed a total of eight fliers,” she added.

Palazzo also reported that Asonye failed to submit the fliers in question for approval, as required by election regulations.

Despite the violations, election commission members declared Asonye the official winner of the trustee race, though not without first reprimanding him.

They recommend that ISS formally sanction Asonye for his illegal use of their e-mail server.

In addition, the fliers he printed have caused the commission to level a $1 materials reimbursement cost and a $75 punitive fine against Asonye, stating that he was fully aware of all election rules and should have obeyed them.

Although these breaches were not significant enough to warrant nullification of Asonye’s victory, a letter will be sent from the commission to all members of the Board of Trustees explaining the violations.

“We’re really disturbed that complaints were up this year, and that the complaints we received were more serious,” Bieniek said after he read the commission’s decisions.

“We can only encourage an environment where students run positive campaigns based on their own sense of morals. We can never eliminate complaints,” he said.

More information about SEC rulings can be found through the University’s Web site.

Election results are expected to be certified within a few days, once all successful write-in candidates have been contacted.