Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Acquittal of PNP overturned

Written by Angie Oliveira and Aliza Libman - News Department
Excalibur - Wednesday, 7 January 2004

The newly elected council is not getting any closer to beginning its term, with current York Federation of Students (YFS) council voting not to ratify the CRO’s report.

At 12:30am this morning the council decided to overturn the elections committee’s ruling that acquitted 19 elected Progress Not Politics (PNP) candidates of any elections by-law violations.

The election saga that began last March when elections were postponed ended with shouting, accusations and even the forced removal of the president. The pressure has been intensified by a letter from vice-president students and alumni Bonnie Neuman urging council to ratify the elected council before she steps in as Provost and freezes the council’s funding for failure to uphold their democratic principles.
Speaker Grant Wagman completely negated the legitimacy of the letter, stating, “nobody except the board of governors itself, pursuant to the board’s own rules, can disband a student government.” “I dismiss it altogether,” he added.

Out of the 26 seats won by the PNP slate, seven whose elections did not depend on the decision of the tribunal were appointed to their positions. The other 19 stood trial last month over alleged overspending but were found innocent by the elections committee.

Last month the decision of the elections committee was contested after elections committee member Heather Mountford left the proceedings because she felt she was being intimidated.

Wagman ruled that sufficient evidence existed to bring the allegations of intimidation forward for deliberation at the next council meeting, but that they did not affect the decision of the council.

Debate was heated, with the divided council alleging that due process had not been followed.

YFS president Michael Novak urged council members to pass the CRO report, calling them a “lame duck council” due to difficulties in reaching quorum.

“This will not be tolerated and should not be tolerated … We are holding up legitimate people that were selected by the students at York. If this goes on more than another few days I will not be able to continue as YFS president,” Novak told council.

Pablo Vivanco, vice-president external affairs, was out of town during the council meeting but prepared a statement that was read by Kathryn Waters, who held his proxy.

In his statement, Vivanco wrote that because of the severity of the aforementioned irregularities, he would not vote in favour of ratification of the CRO’s report.

“There are many reasons to indicate that the elections committee was flawed and biased in its process, making these elections unfair in my mind,” wrote Vivanco.

Susan Gapka, McLaughlin College councillor, agreed with Vivanco.
“The allegation of intimidation throws into question all the decisions made by the elections committee,” says Gapka.

As hours went by, Gapka later reversed her position, stating that the CRO’s report needed to be ratified.

A number of other councillors expressed concern that the YFS council was further delaying ratification.

“This will be the second time we do this in a row,” said Stong College councillor Merve Bayinder, who alluded to last March’s election cancellations.

The returning officers were also opposed to the decision being overturned.

“I would not be bringing this to the council if I didn’t think that the people were elected properly to the position,” said CRO Ryan Jarvis.
PNP campaign manager Yaakov Roth, who was holding the proxy of Winters councillor Alan Kan, also opposed overturning the elections committee’s decision.

“I don’t see how a council that was not there during 10 hours of evidence being presented can overturn it just because they feel like it,” said Roth.

Hillel director Talia Klein, who was holding the proxy for Glendon council member Hussein Samian, agreed.

“I think it’s unconscionable that you’re trying to decide the merits of their case when none of the members are here to defend themselves.”
A secret ballot vote ended with the motion being passed and the acquittal being overturned, with 18 votes in favour, seven opposed and one abstention.

At the announcement of the results, Novak, who was a member of the original tribunal and thus ineligible to vote, addressed the council.
“This whole organization is undemocratic,” he said. Novak continued before being ordered by the speaker and council to cease speaking out of turn.

Novak was found to be in contempt of council but initially refused to leave. He was ultimately ordered to step out, at which point Wagman stated that “the speaker will be launching procedures against Mr. Novak”.

As a result of overturning the vote, the YFS was forced to schedule a retrial for the 19 candidates, which council must officiate itself as a result of its decision.

Council scheduled the retrial for Monday at 10am. Wagman noted that the trial could take 10 hours to deliberate, adding that all voting members must be present for the entire trial in order to be able to vote.

“You’re between a rock and a hard place,” he told them, “ and you did it democratically.”


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