An Undergraduate Student Government judicial panel case found that a campaign did not commit a bylaw violation because there was no evidence of an “intent to falsify” expense documents, and the other candidates that brought the case forward said they don’t plan to appeal.
The panel’s official decision, as well as the arguments each side presented, were released Wednesday after the hearing Tuesday night.
The panel — which consists of a clerk of court with eight judges and a chief justice, who are all students — found that USG presidential candidate and current vice president Josh Ahart and his runningmate Jen Tripi had not committed a violation in a case brought against them by three other campaign teams.
“Since the intent to falsify is necessary for there to be falsification and the greater weight of the evidence could not establish this, the judicial panel reached a unanimous decision that the defendant be found not in violation,” the judicial panel decision, which was obtained by The Lantern Wednesday, read.
The plaintiff brief had alleged the Ahart-Tripi campaign team failed to report the purchase of a domain name “clearly meant to deter an opposing campaign.”
The brief was filed by Celia Wright, Leah Lacure, Vytas Aukstuolis, Nicholas Macek, Mohamad Mohamad and Sean Crowe.
The domain name in question was “voteceliaandleah.com,” which public record from GoDaddy, a domain and website service, showed was registered to an email address belonging to the Ahart-Tripi campaign manager Tim Lanzendorfer in November.
The plaintiff brief argued failing to report the alleged purchasing of the domain name was a violation of USG bylaws.
“Given that almost three months have elapsed with no documentation of the purchase and the clearly malicious nature of the purchase, meant to interfere with the operations of another team, it is evident that the failure to disclose information was not a simple clerical error but instead an act meant to mislead the judicial panel and obstruct an opposing campaign,” the brief said.
According to the panel’s decision, the defendants argued that campaign expenses paid for with personal funds and for personal use do not need to be disclosed, and Lanzendorfer had bought the domain for his personal use.
“It is unpublished and not being used to influence voting decisions. (The defendants) also argue that the claim that this is malicious and damaging to Celia’s team is mitigated by the fact that any possible domains could be used such as ‘buckeyesareawesome.com’ for the same purpose as voteceliaandleah.com could be for Celia and her slate,” the decision read.
The panel asked the plaintiffs whether they could show “intent to falsify documents” in response to the defendants’ claims, to which the plaintiffs “restated their previous arguments about the website as well as (added) vague statements,” according to the decision.
A Tuesday email about the panel’s decision obtained by The Lantern said the plaintiffs could appeal the decision.
Wright, a third-year in public health and USG’s senior internal affairs director, said Wednesday she doesn’t plan to appeal though.
“I don’t imagine that we will try to appeal the decision as a team,” she said. “While we wanted this to be brought to attention, we don’t need to tirelessly chase after people even though we disagree with the decision that was made. So yeah, we are unlikely to seek an appeal.”
She said she’s glad her campaign and two others brought the case forward no matter the decision.
“Normally, elections can be very conflict ridden, so it was a good experience to work (together) with other teams,” Wright said.
Aukstuolis, a third-year in public affairs who is not currently involved with USG, also said he doesn’t plan to appeal.
“We will not be appealing the decision,” he said. “We realize the decision has been made and now it’s time to move forward … I think we can let the voters decide whether or not it was actually used for personal use.”
Ahart said after the hearing Tuesday he was excited about the panel’s decision.
“We are thrilled that the judicial panel ruled unanimously in our favor, as Jen and I never committed any bylaw violations,” Ahart said in an email. “We’re very excited to focus on the issues that affect students in the upcoming weeks.”
Lanzendorfer referred The Lantern to Ahart’s statement for his comment Wednesday.
If found guilty of the alleged bylaw breach, Ahart and Tripi could have been taken off the ballot, however the plaintiff brief stated punitive action shouldn’t have been taken against the nearly 40 General Assembly candidates running on the Ahart-Tripi slate.
The registered campaigns set to appear on the ballot are: Ahart and Tripi; Wright and Lacure; Aukstuolis and Macek; Mohamad and Crowe; Ryan Hedrick and Nicole Spaetzel, Andrew Warnecke and Logan Recker. The Hedrick-Spaetzel and Warnecke-Recker campaigns were the two campaigns not listed on the plaintiff brief.
USG campaigning began Wednesday, and voting is set to be held between March 3 and 5.