Dembling disputes charges as election heads into final stretch

The Joint Elections Committee will hold a closed hearing Friday to address allegations of “financial misconduct” by executive vice presidential candidate Anyah Dembling.

Former EVP candidate Asher Corson submitted a complaint to the JEC last Thursday alleging that Dembling paid for students’ memberships to the College Democrats so they could vote in the endorsement hearing.

Corson said Dembling did not report the membership dues to the JEC, which is required.

Shaina Schallop, general counsel for JEC, said there is no provision in the JEC charter preventing candidates from paying for endorsements or votes. She compared giving out money to distributing water bottles, chips or toilet paper.

“It’s a very similar thing because (the items have) monetary value,” she said.

Students can vote for Dembling or EVP candidate Ed Buckley Thursday. Results are scheduled to be announced late Thursday evening. Omar Woodard and Lee Roupas are on the ballot for SA president.

Dembling said she did not receive a formal copy of the complaint from the JEC, and called the charges “so absurd.”

“To be honest, I think this is allbullshit and all just a form of mudslinging,” she said. “I don’t want to justify these allegations now because it is still a pending situation.”

If the JEC finds that Dembling went over her spending limit or received eight violations, she would not be allowed to take office. But Corson would not enter the race, said John Plack, chair of the JEC.

The JEC delayed Dembling’s hearing until Friday, after the run-off election, so the General Counsel could have enough time to gather information and all the members could be present, JEC members said.

“We’re not going to rush our processes, especially with a hearing, just because it wasn’t in our time frame,” Plack said. “We want to do it right the first time and not have to do it again.”

Corson said he is still concerned that holding the hearing after the elections is not fair to students or the election process.

“We are electing the second highest office in the school without all facts present about this situation, all because the JEC won’t meet,” he said. “The students can’t make a legitimate decision.”

Schallop said Dembling has run a “very clean campaign,” and she does not think Dembling will be unable to claim office.

General Counsel Meggie Baker said she and Schallop investigate allegations that are not “hearsay” and determine whether there is probable cause to bring the charges to the JEC. If they can convince the JEC in a preliminary meeting that there is probable cause, the JEC presides over a hearing, where the General Counsel represents the opposing side to the accused candidate.

Several violations were submitted to the JEC concerning presidential candidate Lee Roupas. When asked about violations, Will Donovan, campaign manager for former presidential candidate Isaiah Pickens, said he filed a complaint against Roupas concerning an unsolicited e-mail.

A member of Pickens’ campaign team also submitted a complaint that Roupas was giving out a palm card in an unauthorized area.

Baker said Roupas did not receive violations for all complaints brought against him because many were “hearsay.”

Several other former candidates said the JEC charter is unclear and some candidates have been able to get around regulations because they are afforded seven violations before they receive a penalty.

Pickens suggested that candidates receive penalties after each of their violations, instead of just getting kicked out of the race after eight.

A source close to the election process said, “if you have the resources to break the rules, you can break the rules.”

Woodard said if elected, he plans to create a Permanent Select Committee on Elections, made up of current and former student leaders, administrators and officials. He said the committee would evaluate and reform the election process from year to year.

Former presidential candidate Joe Venti said he was “a little disappointed with the JEC’s efficiency this year,” noting that office hours were not always kept.

“They weren’t ready for what it took to prepare for this election,” Venti said.

Some students’ votes were also not counted, upsetting at least one former candidate and his team. Students with special permission from their deans can vote via e-mail.

Votes from the women’s basketball team, which was not on campus during the election, were invalidated, said JEC member David Bratslavsky. Deans of each of the schools said the women were needed to sign off on the exceptions, which they did not do in time. Only one executive assistant approved the request.

Five former study abroad students’ ballots were also invalidated because the students mistakenly thought they could vote by absentee ballot.

Meanwhile, students continued to campaign for the run-off elections this week.

“We’ll be reaching out to same people, re-energizing people to get out to vote,” said Dembling, who was passing out pieces of fruit this week with her name on them.

Buckley said he is working “twice as hard” and taking “absolutely nothing for granted.”

Woodard, running against Roupas in the presidential run-off, had a team handing out stickers in front of the Marvin Center Wednesday. Enthusiastic campaign managers tried to garner votes by talking to passing students and telling them about Woodard.

Woodard said while he was “successful the first time,” he wants to reach “people who we didn’t get to reach out to last time.” He said he is using new signs and stickers. Woodard garnered more than 1,000 votes in the first election, about 300 more than Roupas and Pickens.

“I’m running on two things – proactively dealing with issues and providing practical services to students,” Woodard said.

Roupas also said he wants to reach students who voted for other candidates in the first election.

“Our message of inclusion and where we want to take the SA appeals to many,” said Roupas, who was giving out Doritos and computer disks Tuesday.

Julie Gordon contributed to this report.

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