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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Second ‘McIntosh v Keathley’ hearing addressed expense report disqualification charge

Business+honors+junior+and+Election+Commissioner+Rachel+Keathley+cross+examines+McIntoshs+witness.
Photo by Photo by Hanna Hausman

Business honors junior and Election Commissioner Rachel Keathley cross examines McIntosh’s witness.

The Texas A&M Student Government Association held its second public hearing for disqualified student body presidential candidate Robert McIntosh Wednesday night in the Koldus Building.

The hearing held Wednesday night dealt with McIntosh’s second disqualification charge —  failure to account for materials used in a campaign video in his expense report. In last week’s hearing, which McIntosh won, his initial disqualification charges of voter intimidation were overturned. After a one hour hearing, the SGA Judicial Court moved to closed deliberations. When the court is ready, they will  post the results outside the student government office in Koldus room 126 and the SGA Judicial Court website. The results may be posted as late as mid-day Thursday.

McIntosh’s campaign video uploaded to Facebook on Feb. 19 featured glow sticks, which were not listed on the McIntosh campaign’s final expense report.

McIntosh initially won the SBP race, but he was disqualified hours before SGA election results were announced due to two reported violations. The first being 14 counts of voter intimidation, and was classified under case 69-01. The second was his expense report, which was under 69-02.

“While the first hearing addressed a disqualification based on impeding the free and fair process of the elections, voter fraud, and an ethics or honor code violation, the second disqualification relates to an alleged failure to procure a receipt or fair market value form for campaign materials,”  business honors junior and chief justice of the SGA Judicial Court Shelby James said.

Similar to McIntosh’s previous hearing, the student body should not take the results of 69-02 as a vote for any one candidate, according to James.

Similar to 69-01, the Court is not casting a vote for who should assume the presidency but ruling on an issue of the Code,” James said.  “Our process for reaching a decision is considering both parties’ arguments carefully, invoking the Election Regulations, scanning the evidence, and determining whether or not the Commissioner reasonably assessed the violation.”

During the hearing, philosophy junior and chief judicial advocate Aaron Lozano, who served as McIntosh’s representative, said the main question of the hearing was not if the glow sticks weren’t expensed, but whether or not such measures were necessary.

The main question that needs to be answered is if the glowsticks that appeared in the video needed to be expensed,” Lozano said. “The presence of the glowsticks is not a violation. The violation is not expensing them, which the video cannot prove.”

Lozano further said that the violation was reported based on an online video, and that the glow sticks don’t meet the criteria set in the SGA code for needing to be expensed.

“The video is considered electronic media, and not subject to regulation,” Lozano said. “Second, the glow sticks do not meet the standard to be expensed.”

During the hearing, business honors junior and election commissioner Rachel Keathley acknowledged that the violation may seem ludicrous, but reiterated the importance of following campaign regulations.

“I did not make these rules. Over the years, these rules have been set out by the SGA,” Keathley said. “I understand how ridiculous this makes me that this has come down to glowsticks. What matters is this: Candidates agree to follow these requirements.”

Keathley said the disqualification of McIntosh for this violation was by the book, and McIntosh and his campaign should have known going against the rules would lead to disqualification.

“The commissioner was bound by the rules on this, and thus McIntosh was disqualified,” Keathley said, “The candidate should be aware of these rules and the consequences when they run.”

During his opening argument, Lozano said that the election commissioner has no authority to judge or report violations from “electronic media,” such as the campaign’s Facebook video, per the SGA code.

Keathley said she does not monitor things such as Facebook posts or tweets, but that she made her judgements based on the content of the video. Keathley further said Lozano’s argument could set a negative standard for future cases.

“It set a dangerous precedent that something is exempt [from the election commissioner’s judgement] because it’s on the internet,” Keathley said. “If we allow anything on the internet to become a blanket, anything online would be allowed.”

Mark Womack class of 2011 who also represented McIntosh said allowing the election commissioner to make such judgements is a more dangerous standard to set.

“The most dangerous precedent would be the advocation of the election commissioner to do this because of the lack of the expense report,” Womack said. “If you go to the audit section, what was used to disqualify the candidate, it says, ‘Do not audit items that do not meet the criteria.’ There is no way a violation can be placed here.”

Keathley said the violation could have been avoided if the McIntosh campaign had maintained closer communication with the election commission.

“This could have all been solved if they emailed me and asked if they needed to expense the glow sticks,” Keathley said. “This is about the glow sticks. They didn’t ask about the glow sticks. They didn’t expense the glow sticks.”

While McIntosh’s representatives argued the glow sticks did not need to be expensed because the campaign did not buy them, Keathley said they did not need to be purchased by the campaign to be included in the report.

“Not all campaign materials must be purchased to be expensed,” Keathley said. “It’s based off their fair market value. At some point, money was exchanged for them.”

McIntosh’s campaign called three witnesses to the stand, all of whom were involved in the campaign video. One witness, marketing junior Chase Giles, shot and edited the video.

“Glow sticks were never talked about prior to arriving [to the shoot],” Giles said. “After arrival and assessing what we had available, it was my choice to convey the theme [lightheartedness]. It was dark. The glow sticks were not the theme.”

After the trial, Keathley said she still believes that the election commission’s decision was in line with the established regulations.

“I think it went well,” Keathley said. “I think the regulations are a lot more clear on this issue. I’m confident that the election commision voted in the way they were supposed to do, and that we followed the regulations the way they were meant to be.”

Per the SGA code, any candidate who is able to reverse their disqualification can be reinstated for whatever position they were disqualified from, according to James.

The Court would issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Commissioner to drop the disqualification, thus instating Mr. McIntosh as Student Body President,” James said.

James said a reinstatement can also be challenged if a party feels the Court did not follow proper procedure.

“There may be parties who wish to file an appeal before the Court regarding the procedure of the 69-01 or 69-02 cases,” James said. “If any member of the student body feels that the Court did not follow what is mandated by the Code in issuing their judgment, the matter may be further extended.”
 

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