On the eve of the student government elections, the Vice President of Judicial and Legislative Affairs has released a report implicating former Student Association senator J.P. Blackford and incumbent Executive Vice President Eric Daleo.
According to the report, authored by VPJLA Justin Oshana, Daleo and Blackford knew student funds were being used to purchase alcohol for a party and concealed the purchase by mislabeling them in an SA expense report.
“I was not aware this report was going to be released,” Daleo said, calling the report’s release “a gross and absurd abuse” of the VPJLA’s power.
Daleo, who is running for reelection, declined to comment on the specifics of the report, saying he had not been given a copy and he didn’t want to justify it with a response. Blackford failed to return multiple phone calls Wednesday for comment on the report or his potential campaign.
Oshana said he released the report to The Hatchet and SA President Phil Robinson Wednesday in an effort to prevent Blackford from being elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate.
The timing of the release, however, has raised questions both about the power of the VPJLA, the investigative arm of the SA, and the political motivations behind it. According to the SA bylaws, the VPJLA has nearly unlimited powers to investigate members of the SA for violating its rules. Robinson, ultimately the only check to the VPJLA’s office, was also unavailable for comment.
The report presents the conclusions of the VPJLA’s investigation – that Blackford falsified an expense report for a $136 receipt from Riverside Liquors and violated SA bylaws that were grounds for impeachment. Witness testimony from former Vice President for Judicial Affairs Julia Leiken, included in the report, said Daleo and Blackford even joked about having to conceal the alcohol purchase on the expense report as “soda and ice” in the SA office.
Blackford, who resigned earlier this year after the expense reports were made public, has been running a write-in campaign for his former Senate seat, according to multiple SA sources.
“He’s coming out to campaign with his friends,” said Sen. Omar Woodard (U-ESIA). “He knows how to get the write-in votes.”
The time Oshana chose to release the report, which implicates Daleo as much as Blackford in the scandal, has been called into serious question by Daleo and other senate leaders who dismiss it as politically motivated.
“I think Justin (Oshana) has a year-long vendetta against J.P., Eric Daleo and myself,” said Dan Moss (U-SBPM). “I don’t understand why he has to bring this up again.”
Moss and Oshana said it was understood when Blackford resigned that the report would not be made public because the VPJLA did not have the authority to investigate students who were not involved in the SA.
“I was under the assumption that there was never going to be a report because JP is no longer a member of the SA (because he) resigned,” Moss said.
Though Oshana denied endorsing or supporting any candidate, he has expressed support for EVP candidate Jason Cabrera, his teammate on the GW Mock Trial team.
“It speaks to the motives of the report that (Oshana) made the report public without notifying the Senate leadership,” Daleo said. “It is clear that he is supporting one of my opponents.”
Daleo contends he cooperated fully with Oshana’s investigation,
citing a letter dated Oct. 17, 2002, which was included in the report. In the letter, Daleo admits Blackford told him “on at least one occasion” the expense report was fraudulent and the money was used to buy alcohol.
During an emergency SA town hall meeting in November, Daleo said he had never admitted that the expense report accounted for an alcohol purchase.
When asked about the apparent contradiction, Daleo said he did not recall saying words to that effect at the meeting but admitted he had been evasive though not untruthful in his public statements.
Daleo said he had worked to end the scandal that angered students and divided the SA by joining with other SA leaders to ask Blackford to resign in late November. Daleo said he had strongly supported Blackford’s decision to repay the student government for the $136 as a way to move beyond the issue.
Nearly all candidates for office in the SA have included reform in their campaign platforms.
“The report sounds like exaggeration, hyperbole and misinformation and the kind of stuff students don’t want to see in the SA,” said Daleo, who has campaigned by distributing rolls of toilet paper with stickers reading “cleaning up the SA” affixed to the side.
“Before they get on a soapbox and say that I am out on a witch hunt, they should remember that I don’t make up what they do,” Oshana said. “I am not the one spending student funds on alcohol.”
-Rachel Gould contributed to this report.