Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Keller not disqualified after election dispute, inaugurated

The University of Alabama Student Government Association Elections Board decided March 21 that Vice President for Student Affairs Stephen Keller and his campaign “violated the spirit of a fair campaign” by accepting and distributing fliers under the banner of Students for Experienced Leaders on election day.

Despite the violation, Keller will not be disqualified from holding office. He was given a sanction of 75 hours of community service for his actions and is now an inaugurated member of the 2014-15 SGA.

Keller was notified of the decision via email on March 21 with a letter signed by Madalyn Vaughn and Robert Herron, co-chairs of the Elections Board.

Keller was initially accused of violating election rules by accepting and distributing fliers on election day without reporting them to the Elections Board. Elliot Spillers, the opposing candidate for vice president for student affairs, filed a complaint with the Elections Board on March 12 after WVUA-FM reported that Keller had received and distributed the fliers.

Keller admitted to accepting and distributing some of the fliers, but said he did not believe his actions constituted a violation of rules.

According to Article VI, Section 1 of the Student Government Elections Manual, “Any candidate failing to file any report of campaign expenditures or contributions required by this Election Code or exceeding the limit on campaign expenditures set in this Election Manual shall be disqualified.”

(See also “Keller violated rules, will not be disqualified from holding office“)

The Elections Board chose to accept Keller’s amended financial disclosure form, citing a past precedent for accepting late or amended forms. However, the board found that Keller had violated other election rules nonetheless.

“The Board felt that your acceptance of the Students for Experienced Leadership flyers and distribution by your campaign team violated the spirit of a fair campaign on Election Day,” the letter stated.

The board specifically cited Article 3, Section 1.B of the elections manual. The section states, “The candidate is responsible for communicating campaign guidelines to their campaign team. Should any person campaigning for a particular candidate be found in any violation of any guideline, the candidate will be held responsible.”

Vaughn said Keller’s actions constituted an intermediate violation under Article VI, Section 3 of the elections manual. Intermediate violations are those that are not “flagrant or intentional” in nature and are not grounds for disqualification.

“After a great deal of discussion, the Elections Board determined that a sanction with an educational outcome would be the most effective for this violation,” Vaughn said.

In an emailed statement, Keller said he was disappointed by the board’s decision.

“In every way, I followed the specific rules that are listed in the Elections Manual,” Keller said. “My campaign team and I acted ethically, morally and responsibility [sic] throughout the entire campaign period.”

Keller said the manual is unclear on how to handle donations on election day and that he and his team acted on their own judgment.

“There was and is currently no specific way described in the Elections Manual to claim and report any sort of expenditure on the actual day of the election, nor are election day expenses prohibited,” Keller said. “My campaign staff and I decided the best way for me to report the in-kind donation would be to email the Elections Board the following day and report the expenditure.”

Spillers said although it was not the decision he wanted, he plans to stay involved on campus and hopes Keller will make the most of his community service.

“It wasn’t the result I wanted, but I’m not going to let that stop me from making a difference here on campus,” Spillers said.

(See also “Keller accused of violating election rules“)

Keller said he is looking forward to serving the Tuscaloosa community during his term.

“I am ready to hit the ground running these next few weeks to ensure my campaign platform becomes a reality for all students as we work together to build a stronger Capstone,” he said.

Spillers, who filed the initial complaint, appealed the decision to the Judicial Board and said he plans to pursue other options to appeal the decision if need be.

“I have decided to appeal the decision. However, I feel like because of the politics of the school, nothing is really going to change about the decision,” Spillers said.

Vaughn confirmed Monday that Spillers and others stated their intent to appeal the decision March 31, the day before new SGA executive officers were sworn in.

“The Elections Board received notification today that Elliott Spillers and Julia Hemsley are exercising their right to appeal to the Judicial Board,” Vaughn said Monday.

Ben Sleight, chief justice of the Judicial Board, said that as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the board had not reached a decision on Spiller’s appeal, and Keller was officially sworn in as vice president for student affairs on Tuesday afternoon.

“Well I think our plan is, because he is, for the moment, the duly elected vice president for student affairs, we will swear him in today,” Sleight said on Tuesday afternoon.

Sleight said there was no time frame for deliberations on Spiller’s appeal, and any questions about avenues for removal of a candidate after inauguration should be directed to the Elections Board.

“There isn’t [a time frame], but we are moving as fast as we can on that without being hasty,” Sleight said of Spiller’s appeal Tuesday afternoon.

Vaughn, however, said questions about removing a candidate after their inauguration should be referred to the Judicial Board. Leela Foley, director of media relations for SGA, said since they have not encountered a situation like this before, it was uncertain what might happen if the Judicial Board overturned the Election Board’s decision.

“I really can’t say,” Foley said. “That will be up to the Judicial Board, and I can’t speak for them right now. I don’t have a prior case to base this off of.”

(See also “2014-15 SGA election results“)

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