York University’s Excalibur, January 7, 2004
By: Angie Oliveira and Aliza Libman
Though the results of the YFS elections were announced in late November, the elected council has not set foot in its offices due to numerous investigations and hearings that have postponed its ratifications.
Though 26 seats were won by the Progress Not Politics (PNP) slate, 19 elected PNP candidates, including all four executive members, had to undergo a tribunal hearing after complaints were brought forward regarding the slate’s spending on campaign materials.
Within a period of one week, three of the candidates, vice-president academic and university affairs candidate Pablo Vivanco, and presidential candidates Erica-Joy Henry and Jeffrey Granell, brought complaints to chief returning officer (CRO) Ryan Jarvis regarding PNP’s spending.
On December 4, a tribunal hearing took place where the elections committee heard testimonies from Vivanco and Henry. Several PNP candidates were present, including president-elect Paul Cooper, who represented the 19 PNP candidates. Lawyer Edward Prutschi was also present, serving as legal counsel for the PNP candidates standing trial.
During the trial, allegations regarding PNP’s expenses were made, claiming that the slate violated several election bylaws regarding how much candidates can spend for campaigning.
The trial focused on an invoice submitted by PNP candidates who paid $64.40 for 4,000 brochures with double-sided printing on coloured paper from Continental Press, a printing company located in Concord. The complainants alleged that it broke the “fair market value” rule, as the other candidates were forced to pay between $400 and $600 for the same service.
According to the CRO and deputy returning officers (DROs), the “fair market value” was clarified for the candidates during a second all-candidates meeting held November. Jarvis stated the fair market value was $0.05 copy; with a price one or two cents below the fair market value being acceptable. However, “$0.01 per photocopy was not acceptable” unless proof was given that it was fair market value. Jarvis also testified that he sought assistance from the elections committee after complaints were made by candidates in addition to discrepancies regarding PNP’s expense forms.
“This investigation, I believe, was necessary, but I do not believe that the evidence was strong to remove the [PNP] candidates while the elections were going on,” said Jarvis. The day before the trial, Hillel and PNP issued a press release calling the lections committee biased. Consequently, several prominent members of the Toronto Jewish community and media attended the trial.
Director of Hillel Talia Klein was a witness for PNP and testified on the basis of her experience in the printing industry. Klein explained the various methods of printing in order to explain why PNP was able to pay a cheap price for their printed materials. “They cut every possible corner,” she said.
A letter signed by Continental CEO Jack Oziel was also submitted as evidence, stating that the price given for PNP’s order would have been available to anyone. Following the trial, deliberations took place with the elections committee and the CRO and DROs. After three hours, elections committee member and McLaughlin College Council president Heather Mountford left the meeting without casting her vote.
In an e-mail to the YFS council later that night, Mountford resigned from the elections committee, stating that she felt “significantly intimidated by the tactics of one of the members of the elections committee to vote under inconsistent circumstances”. She wrote that she left the proceedings specifically stating that her leaving the meeting did not constitute a vote of abstention.
Five members make up the elections committee, including current YFS president Michael Novak. When Mountford left the meeting, quorum was no longer present, since four people are required to be present. Despite Mountford’s resignation, the elections committee decided that the charges against PNP were invalid, citing insufficient evidence. With the decision to acquit PNP of any violations, all that remained was the passing of the CRO report to be presented at the December 15 YFS meeting.
This report needs to be ratified by the current YFS council in order to accept the newly elected council. However, several council members brought up concerns regarding Mountford’s resignation from the elections committee. Outgoing McLaughlin councillor Susan Gapka requested that an investigation be launched into Mountford’s resignation and alleged intimidation. “[It’s] a matter of grave concern,” said Gapka.
Shamini Selvaratnam, vice-president of the Atkinson Student Association, also raised concerns over Mountford’s resignation, feeling that if complaints are pending then the CRO report should not be ratified. “I don’t know how the decision [was] reached,” said Selvaratnam.
Though Mountford did not identify the committee member who intimidated her during the deliberation process, during the December 15 meeting it was suggested that Novak was the member. Novak also serves as chair of the committee. During the council meeting Novak motioned to dismiss the matter of an investigation and argued that any concerns regarding the elections committee were not discussed earlier and were not on the agenda.
“I don’t know what we are doing … My understanding is that we are accepting the CRO report,” said Novak. Following comments from several members, council than voted to table the motion to ratify the CRO report until after an investigation could be conducted into Mountford’s complaints this month.
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