The judicial committee of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations will deliberate this Wednesday evening and next Monday on alleged violations committed by the chief electoral officer in last week’s ASFA byelection.
On Saturday, the Concordian broke a story revealing that at least one polling clerk in the byelection, Nicole Devlin, last year’s ASFA VP internal, was ineligible to perform her duties. According to ASFA’s Annex A, all current and former ASFA executives are barred from acting as electoral officers.
JC member Justin Famili confirmed in an email Monday evening that “two requests for a formal opinion” regarding the Oct. 12 and 13 byelection had been received and that after preliminary inquiries, the three-member judicial committee would meet to deliberate the first contestation on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
That first request was filed by newly-hired CEO Marvin Cidamon and current ASFA VP internal Schubert Laforest, who indicated on Saturday that he made sure the issue of Devlin’s hiring was referred to the judicial committee as soon as it was brought to his attention post-byelection.
“I don’t know what happened exactly. It was a huge oversight by everyone,” said Laforest. “We’re going to send this on to JC and see what they say. The Annex doesn’t actually say what happens when these kinds of violations take place.”
The second contestation of complaint was filed by last year’s ASFA CEO Nicolas Cuillerier, and will be heard by the JC next Monday, Oct. 24. Cuillerier said he had filed the contestation “out of concern over the numerous violations that took place and the questionable oversight of Annex A.”
In his contestation, Cuillerier is seeking the JC’s ruling on four items: whether the byelection is still valid given the electoral violations, whether to consider punitive measures for the CEO, the deputy chief electoral officer and any other eligible electoral officer, whether the appointment of the CEO was a valid appointment, and whether the CEO should continue in his duties for the rest of the year.
“I filed this contestation with great concern regarding ASFA’s electoral system, a system I helped improve last year as CEO by making many recommendations to Annex A,” said Cuillerier on Monday night.
Another violation committed early in the polling period was the failure to ensure that executive summaries were present at all polling stations. These short paragraphs describing the candidates were ordered to be visible at all stations by the previous ASFA council last April. Cidamon immediately rectified the case of the missing executive summaries upon notification from Laforest on Oct. 12.
As for Devlin’s hiring, Cidamon maintained on Saturday evening that it was his “prerogative” to hire who he wanted to work at the polls, and that he would take full responsibility for violating ASFA’s Annex A, a 10-page document that details how ASFA elections are to be carried out.
“I feel it would be almost crazy if I didn’t hire her. If anyone knows how to run an election, it’s her,” he said, claiming that members of the judicial committee were well aware of Devlin’s hiring, but said nothing at the time.
The judicial committee declined the Concordian’s request for comment.
Given that the JC already allegedly knew of Devlin’s hiring but remained silent on the issue, Cidamon said he only sent the request for investigation to the JC because “somebody complained” to ASFA’s executive.
Not yet appointed by council
According to Annex A, the CEO must be appointed by ASFA council, though this has yet to actually happen. At its September meeting, council mandated the internal and administration committee to appoint an interim CEO until this selection could be ratified at the Oct. 13 council meeting.
The committee originally selected Paul Goubko, who is also ineligible to act as CEO because he is a former member association executive and ASFA councillor. Upon realizing this, the committee soon replaced Goubko with Cidamon, a former member association CEO. But the decision was never ratified at last Thursday’s council meeting as originally planned, with Laforest explaining that the vote was postponed because the meeting was taking place at Loyola while Cidamon was still at the downtown campus counting ballots.
“We felt he had to be at the meeting,” said Laforest. “But technically he is still a legitimate CEO. The idea is that between council meetings, oversight committees have the power of council. Our decision just has to be re-approved by council.”
In an email sent shortly after midnight on Tuesday, ASFA’s chair informed councillors that the ratification of the CEO’s appointment would take place at a special council meeting scheduled for this Thursday.
Asked whether his committee was now reconsidering its choice of Cidamon given the alleged violations, Laforest said the decision to take Cidamon on as a permanent CEO now lies with council.
The version of Annex A currently posted on ASFA’s website is outdated, stemming from council’s December meeting. When asked if Cidamon had consulted this document rather than the updated version, which was approved in April, Laforest confirmed that he had indeed gone over the most recent version of the Annex with Cidamon during CEO training in late September.
Waiting for the results
There were also some other stipulations in Annex A that may or may not have been respected, depending on the interpretation. For instance, the document indicates that the polling period must run over three consecutive days. The recent byelection only ran for two days.
“We struggled with that one a lot. The three consecutive days applies to general elections, but it doesn’t explicitly say byelections,” said Laforest, indicating that this is something he is hoping to clear up this year.
“I will be meeting with the administration and internal committee as well as policy review to go over and revise the electoral proceedings of ASFA, from hiring electoral officers to the actual administering of the election,” said Laforest.
“ASFA is getting bigger and becoming more complex, so we need to stop relying on convention and have tighter, more explicit, legislation.”
Another stipulation in the Annex says that the CEO must announce the results of the election within 24 hours after the counting of the ballots, although it doesn’t specifically say how the results must be announced.
In Cidamon’s case, Laforest said he “understood” that the CEO had emailed the candidates and student media with the results, but was unsure if the results had actually been posted by the CEO to a platform accessible to the general public.
“We kind of let him do his own thing. We wanted to respect his chronology and let him count all the ballots,” said Laforest.
Cidamon explained that he texted the candidates with the results, and later emailed them. He also emailed the results to members of the student press, but only after this information had been requested.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have even given you guys the results if you hadn’t asked,” said Cidamon.
Contacted on Friday, ASFA president Alex Gordon said he “had taken a step back from the elections,” allowing Cidamon and the polling officers to run the byelection.
“As far as the validity of the process, we try to follow by the book as much as possible. If there were any violations or problems, we would have to look at them as an executive. The proper venue might be the JC,” said Gordon. “But I don’t think these violations are on the same level of seriousness as a candidate’s violations.”
As it stands, the winners of the byelection are Alexis Suzuki for VP communications and promotions, Paul Jerajian for VP external and sustainability, and Yasmeen Zahar for independent councillor.