Student government controversy: Election violations prompt emergency action

SGA president nominee Jordan Carbajal (center) weighs in on the ad-hoc committee debate.

Alex T. Randolph and Will Mathis

Amid rampant allegations of bribery, extortion, bullying and false advertisement surrounding this year’s student elections, Santa Rosa Junior College officials announced May 13 a special election to rectify the numerous code violations by the two student platforms, Justice League and Rebel Alliance.

The ad-hoc elections committee also decided not to disqualify all student nominees in an emergency meeting in the Bertolini Student Center. Since there was no concrete evidence of foul play from any one person, the decision was either all nominees keep their positions, or all be disqualified.

These special re-elections run next week with most positions unopposed as Rebel Alliance nominees Robert Martinez, Enrique Martinez and Mika Steiner suspended their campaigns out of protest for what they felt was a heavily biased election. Hannah Cagle resigned outright, citing an unhealthy and toxic amount of divisiveness.

“It’s not about the position; it’s about doing what’s fair for the students,” said Josh Pinaula, current Student Government Assembly president and vice president of organizations nominee.

The Rebel Alliance submitted an appeal of the first election’s outcome to the ad-hoc committee. It listed several accusations toward the Justice League, including but not limited to, campaigning within 30 feet of an official polling station, brochure bios that went over the 150 word count limit and extortion by SGA president nominee Jordan Carbajal. Included were posts of Justice League emails submitted as evidence of false advertising and bribery.

Robert Ethington, dean of student affairs and engagement programs, and Patie Wegman, dean of student conduct, investigated the allegations and found several violations, including bribery. Multiple allegations, including extortion, were not investigated due to difficulty or not being directly related to the election code.

When asked about the appeal, Carbajal said he disagreed with it and recommended the appeal be made public. “I encourage students to vote in the special elections,” he said.

Accusations against the Rebel Alliance included misplacement of campaign posters and collaborating with clubs for their vote. The Rebel Alliance received a 24-hour campaign suspension because of the allegations against them.

The Justice League didn’t send an appeal by the April 25 deadline. When asked about its lack of response at the emergency meeting, Carbajal, acting as representative for the Justice League, said the slate just wanted it over with.

“The election’s done. The students spoke. It happened,” Carbajal said. He believes the special elections would strip away the rights of students who work full time and could only vote during the normal elections. “Stripping that right away should be an insult,” he said.

After the elections committee vote, a member brought up a motion, requiring all prospective SGA candidates to attend mandatory ethics and leadership meetings. Those who don’t will face disqualification. The board made several amendments, such as suggesting all current staff and faculty be highly recommended by the SGA to attend the meetings. Student government is to approve of a neutral third party, unattached to the school, to lead the meetings.

The motion and all amendments were passed by unanimous vote. “This is really good stuff,” said Vice Chair of Student Government Mike Scharf of the amendments. “I’m not supposed to show bias, but it is.”