Vision's Natalie Campbell, Isaac Holt and Emerson Burd will continue to transition into their executive positions, following a judicial hearing that found the team overspent $36. 61 and violated the letter of the law.
The violations, although not changing the top of the ticket, docked each Vision candidate for the top three positions, in combination with a previous infraction, 5.22%, while each senatorial candidate was reduced 3.22%.
Soon after the results of the 2019 election were revealed, members of the campaign which ran in second for the executive positions, Impact, expressed concerns with a discrepancy in monetary funding.
“We keep our student government accountable,” Junior studying political economy with a minor in business through the College Scholars Program and Impact presidential candidate Owen Flomberg said. “And that's what we're trying to do.”
Election Commissioner Matthew Herald denied a request to view receipts until the Campaign Value Report was made public. After its publication, Herald provided the information and after hearing the findings of Impact, Herald signed on as a co-complainant.
“A review of the CVRs was done...myself, as well as another member of the election commission Willie Kemp were briefed by Impact UT of the contents of what they discovered in comparing discrepancies and Campaign Value Reports,” Herald said. “It was at this time that I became aware of nine separate...violations that they discovered and after looking through that, I decided to sign as a co-complainant.”
Nine specific violations were addressed during the judicial hearing: a lack of sales tax payment and a violation of the Election Packet for Vision's t-shirt purchases; discounted purchase of Red Bull from a campus ambassador; an unequal purchase and splitting receipt of hot dogs, burgers and their respective buns; unreported monetary value of fatheads; unreported necessities for shaved ice; illicit supporter donations; unreported peanut butter crackers; t-shirt purchases by candidates; and unreported monetary value of name tags.
What is a student discount?
Two presented violations sparked a discussion of the definition of a student discount: Vision's t-shirt purchases and a discounted purchase of Red Bull from a campus ambassador.
Flomberg reported a conversation he had with Campbell in December, where she shared she would not run for an SGA-elected position. The same week, Campbell and Holt purchased t-shirts from campaign member Tonio McKinley's Black Gatsby Apparel.
Flomberg and other Impact campaign members found no receipt of the t-shirt purchase made and the contract did not list sales tax. Impact alleged the misreported finances violated the Election Packet, which states students campaigning must follow the Student Code of Conduct which states, “SECTION 4.28 ACT PROHIBITED BY LAW. Committing an act that is prohibited by local, state or federal law.”
Flomberg stated that h requested a quote earlier in the week to present as evidence, stating that he received a quote of $6.94 per shirt, as Vision received a $4.20 per t-shirt quote, raising the question as to whether a student discount was received for the purchase of the t-shirts. “This is not a student discount because it was not available to all students,” Flomberg said.
Vision campaign manager Mikayla Stogsdill rebutted that quotes can change as business seasons, t-shirt materials, t-shirt design and other factors affect the price. Justice Josh Cook begged the question of whether a discount could be offered based on McKinley's status on the campaign.
“Would that constitute a gift or a donation?” Cook asked.
“I don't know if you pay for donations,” Stogsdill said. “So, that's my problem. If I'm donated something, I'm not paying for it.”
The Court ultimately decided that the contention of sales tax being a violation of the Student Code of Conduct was “wholly without merit.”
“Whether Gatsby chose to charge Defendants sales tax as part of their shirt purchase is of no concern to this Court,” the opinion reads.
Taking into account the multiple factors mention by Stogsdill, the court ultimately determined that “It cannot reasonably be maintained that this...shirt purchase is an unreported donation or discount.” No violation was found.
Vision's supply of Red Bull also begged the question regarding the definition of a student discount. Red Bull campus ambassador Hudson Anthony arrived at Vision's campaign headquarters around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17 at the surprise of Stogsdill, after “loose conversations” occurred earlier in the campaign season.
Stogsdill said that the team accepted the Red Bull, but after agreeing on a price of $30 because the team knew they could not accept donations.
Impact found fault with Anthony's supply of Red Bull, stating that the $30 receipt presented by Vision when asked by Herald to provide proof of purchase was unsatisfactory because the retail price was estimated at $482.
“It is a student discount...he is a popular brand ambassador. He has given to a lot of different organizations,” Stogsdill said.
“This is a common thing that he does. The whole point of a brand ambassador to do these student discounts, to do these student discounts,” Stogsdill said. “I think that that's what we're getting into with market value versus $30. It's so much different than using Hudson as a brand ambassador.
“If any of the other campaigns had asked in person to get some of the deals, he would have given it and he even said that in his testimony.”
Hudson's testimony proved important in the court's decision, who ruled there was not a violation after taking into consideration Hudson's willingness to help the other campaigns and his full discretion over the terms of his transactions.
“That each transaction may have its own unique terms makes it that much more difficult to determine when there is any 'discount' being offered,” the opinion says. “In any event, (Impact, Herald) have offered no evidence to rebut this defense.”
What is a 'fair' use of resources?
Three presented violations sparked a discussion on what a 'fair' use of resources should look like: Vision's creation and use of fatheads, the use of a shaved ice machine and name tags for campaign members.
Flomberg reported that an Impact supported had a conversation with a friend who said that the Vision campaign had used university channels, like UCopy, to print out the fatheads, which were then cut and glued to cardboard. Flomberg filed that this was a direct violation of the Election Packet's compliance with spending limit and that the Impact campaign had not found a receipt for the fatheads.
Stogsdill rebutted the claim that Vision used university channels, instead stating that they went to a friend of Natalie Campbell's father who owns a big, industrial printer. Joe Campbell confirmed Stogsdill's statement.
Moreover, Stogsdill contested that she would be unable to calculate the cost of the fatheads, but that since the fatheads did not sway voters to vote for Vision.
“The other point of that is like there's not a receipt, because you don't go to this printer at this business and get a receipt for what we printed off of it,” Stogsdill said.
“The printer we're talking about is not one that I can actually like figure out what the cost is,” Stogsdill added.
The question then rose, however, as to how was printing the fatheads any different than Natalie's father donating her money to print them.
“If you didn't have access to this high-tech printer, high format printer, would you have spent the money to go and buy fatheads for this purpose, like is it something you would budget for?” Erica Davis, chief justice of the judicial council and senior studying law, said.
Stogsdill replied that she did not know if they would have budgeted for the fatheads if they hadn't had access to the printer.
The court ultimately found the use of the printer to be deemed a donation, in the terms decided through conversation during the courtroom and the election packet. The violation found by the Court, after an estimate by material provider Hayden Horton, was a failure to report $2.28 on their CVR.
“Defendants...suggested that if an item was 'too difficult' to value, it may not have to be included in a CVR report,” the opinion says. “This position flies in the face of the Election Packet, general ethics, and all common sense. Valuing a certain item may be difficult, but it is not impossible; going forward, all campaigns and candidates would be wise to err on the side of caution.”
The next presented violation was of the unreported purchase of ice for the shaved ice machine and although the violation was for unaccounted receipts, there was still the question of 'fair' use of resources as far as having enough cups and juices for the shaved ice without purchasing more.
Isaac Holt, junior in marketing, confirmed that he had had the snow cone machine prior to the SGA election season and when he went home over spring break he decided to bring it back with him, just in case if the Vision campaign wanted to use it. He also said that he had the cups and the flavors in bulk so they had no need to purchase more.
“I brought it back, I went to the (store), I bought the ice. The ice is not on the CVR,” Holt said. “But we just forgot to give the receipt for the CVR and the ice came off to $4. 35-$4.36, something in that range.”
The Court upheld that the prior ownership of the shaved ice machine was acceptable by the Election Packet, but in interpreting what could and could not be used from a candidate's home, the Court held that syrup, cups and ice failed to be reported properly.
“To hold that ordinary foodstuffs could avoid being reported by virtue of coming from a candidate’s personal residence would necessarily invite candidates to bring as much from home as possible,” the opinion says. “This would also disproportionately benefit those candidates whose families may be independently wealthy and have access to many more materials.”
The Court struggled to find a value to match the expenditure. Impact/Herald asserted a cost of $45.79 after a price comparison on Amazon and information from Holt's parents claimed a value closer to $9.44. Have no way to “conclusively prove either value,” the Court split the between the two values to state that Vision failed to report materials totaling $27.87.
The third violation presented about 'fair' use of resources focused on personalized name tags that campaign members of Vision wore, which again were not included in the receipts on the CVR. Stogsdill contested the issue, explaining that the name tags were printed on Holt's printer in Vol Hall and since they are a common office supply, it didn't have to be listed on the CVR.
While taking into consideration the Election Packet's “common office supplies” rule, the Court examined the “Non-Monetary Donations” definition provided by the Election Packet, which states, “Donations, goods, or services from a 2019-25 Opinion of the Court 8 Business or individual intended to promote a particular candidate or party shall be designated as ‘Non-Monetary Donations.’ Non-Monetary Donations must be recorded in Appendix I.”
Vision claimed the name tags were used for identification purposes for the campaign, without a promotion intent and the Court upheld this, finding no violation.
“The name tags do not constitute a non-monetary donation under the current wording of the Election Packet,” the opinion says. “Further, the tags were returned after use, and were not 'donated' as the plain meaning of the word entails. The same reasoning applies to the printed inserts used.”
What happens next?
Taking into account the sum of money Vision failed to report in various items, including an accidental passing out of $6.46 of peanut butter crackers, the Court found that the $36.61 that Vision failed to report was not “enough evidence to conclude that any 'substantial irregularity' occurred so as to materially impact the overall outcome of the election.”
The Court found a proportional vote reduction to be in order for every candidate, since the entire campaign benefitted from the unreported overspending.
“While debates on the merits of any particular formula are bound to be had,” the opinion says, “the Court feels that it is important to establish precedent as to how to properly calculate votes should we ever find ourselves in this unfortunate situation in the future.”
Established by the Court is that the unreported amount equated to 1.22% of the allowed $3,000 budget. Each Vision candidate's votes were reduced by that amount, along with an addition 1% deduction for each spirit violation. Coupled with the previous 2% reduction on the top three candidates mens Vision's Campbell, Holt and Burd had their votes reduced by 5.22% and each Senatorial candidate's votes were reduced by 3.22%.
The method we establish today operates as follows: The unreported amount equates to approximately 1.22% of the allowed $3000 budget. As such, we find it appropriate to reduce each Vision candidate’s vote totals by that amount. Additionally, we are adding an additional 1% deduction for each spirit violation. This, coupled with the previous 2% reduction leveled on the top three candidates, means that Vision’s candidates for President, Vice President, and Student Services Director will have their votes reduced by 5.22%. Each Senatorial candidate will have their votes reduced by 3.22%.
The results of the reduction are as follows:
Natalie Campbell, Vision - 2,725 votes
Owen Flomberg, Impact UT - 2,263 votes
Chad Smith, Thrive - 2,070 votes
Isaac Holt, Vision 2,587 votes
Kaylee Sheppard, Impact UT - 2,264 votes
Kenzie Bastian, Thrive - 2,232 votes
Student Services Director:
Emerson Burd, Vision - 2,447 votes
Madison Woods, Impact UT - 2,428 votes
Justin Cross, Thrive 2,216 votes
East Area Senators:
Emily Medford, Impact UT - 450 votes
Sascha Richey, Impact UT - 395 votes
Central Area Senators:
Cameron Gracey, Vision - 319 votes
Jaden Hodges, Thrive - 305 votes
West Area Senators:
Avery Patterson, Vision - 716 votes
Eli Pearson, Impact UT - 574 votes
Hannah Blackwell, Thrive - 1,246 votes
Maria Urias, Vision - 1,173 votes
Mallika Vohra, Vision - 1,168 votes
Wesley Smith, Vision - 1,141 votes
Caroline Waters Vision 1154 -37 1117
Emma Boyle Vision 1152 -37 1115
Annelise Brueher Vision 1144 -37 1107
Paige Shimer Thrive 1105 1105
Catherine Faulk Thrive 1094 1094
Mary Grace Hinton Impact UT 1094 1094
Tonio McKinley Vision 1113 -36 1077
Eva Henrikova Vision 1100 -35 1065
Ronald Young, Vision - 30 votes
Claire Donelan, Vision - 92 votes
Arts & Sciences
Mustafa Salameh, Impact UT - 903 votes
Sophia Rhoades, Impact UT - 776 votes
Elijah Ramsey, Impact UT - 747 votes
Noah Smith, Impact UT - 727 votes
Sarah Hodges, Vision - 718 votes
Andrew Fahim, Impact UT - 717 votes
Simon Jolly, Impact UT - 713 votes
Katie Bardwell, Impact UT - 708 votes
Kassie Looschen, Impact UT - 702 votes
Carlos Mancilla, Impact UT - 694 votes
Communication & Information
Carson Burns, Vision - 148 votes
Bryson Atkins, Thrive - 134 votes
Jonathan Thompson, Vision - 340 votes
Devanie Carattini, Vision - 316 votes
College of Business
Connor Davis, Vision - 584 votes
Mary Ciochetty, Vision - 583 votes
Michael Banks, Vision - 581 votes
Cailin Bailey, Vision - 547 votes
John Michael Haren, Vision - 519 votes
Drew Hyler, Vision - 519 votes
Liam Robertson, Vision - 497 votes
Chloe Ford, Thrive - 201 votes
Jerome Linyear, Thrive -176 votes
Abigail Haggard, Vision - 77 votes
Ashlyn Wood, Impact UT - 35 votes
Molly Mays, Impact UT - 380 votes
Shivang Patel, Impact UT -361 votes
Raj Patel, Thrive - 333 votes
Scott Malone, Impact UT -318 votes
Micheal Burnside, Vision - 287 votes
“You didn't find that there was an impact, so you didn't give a violation. You didn't think that it could actually affect anything and that's where we're coming from,” Stogsdill said. “Because you can't look at what campaign is all about, which is whether or not students voted and how they voted or even ... if somehow we had something that would prohibit students from voting. That's what this is all about.