Charges filed by ASUC attorney general spark concerns over partisanship

Taylor Vega /File

The Defend Affirmative Action Party and Student Action are voicing concerns that ASUC Attorney General Kevin Sabo has been acting in a partisan manner after he announced the disqualification of one candidate and filed several charges against another.

The parties allege that Sabo, in announcing these punitive measures, is placing unfair scrutiny on them and not on CalSERVE, due to his past relationship with the party. In the role of attorney general, Sabo provides nonpartisan oversight of the ASUC, including upholding the integrity of elections.

In fall, Sabo’s appointment almost shut down the ASUC Senate after several senators expressed concern over his work in the office of ASUC Executive Vice President Nolan Pack, who is one of three CalSERVE executives in the ASUC. However, Sabo said that the has not been influenced by CalSERVE or other campus organizations in his position.

“There’s no possible way in the system and structure that we have that I’d be able to favor CalSERVE,” Sabo said.

Sabo sent an email telling DAAP academic affairs vice presidential candidate Alison McDonald she was disqualified after she left the ASUC candidates meeting March 18. Sabo also filed three charges with the ASUC Judicial Council against Student Action presidential candidate Pavan Upadhyayula for improper campaign practices.

Each charge carries a one-censure penalty for each individual candidate. Five censures are needed to disqualify a candidate, and none have been issued by the judicial council this election season.

While 13 DAAP candidates left the meeting during intermission, McDonald was the only one to be sent an email about disqualification because she failed to accept a censure offered by the ASUC Elections Council over email.

The ASUC bylaws stipulate that all candidates must attend the meeting in order to be eligible to participate in the elections but does not specify whether candidates must stay for the entire meeting. The Elections Council requires all candidates to stay for the duration of the meeting, however.

McDonald, who says she left the meeting early due to medical reasons, said she sent the Elections Council an email accepting the censure but believes it may not have been received due to technical difficulties. She was unable to provide proof she sent the email as she says she routinely deletes her sent messages.

DAAP presidential and senatorial candidate David Douglass alleges that the actions taken by the Elections Council, particularly Sabo, were politically motivated and said his party intends on fighting McDonald’s pending disqualification.

“It’s undemocratic when we’re the only opposing candidate to CalSERVE in that position,” Douglass said.

Although DAAP’s attorney sent a letter to the Judicial and Elections councils alleging that Sabo violated McDonald’s rights under the U.S. Constitution, the ASUC’s attorney advised Sabo that the issue was not a not a civil matter and recommended it be handled internally within the ASUC.

Thus far, CalSERVE has been given two warnings, one each to two senatorial candidates Yordanos Dejen and Melissa Hsu for leaning campaign material on Sather Bridge and sending an unsolicited email, respectively. The party has not received any censures or disqualifications.

“It’s unfortunate that people think that it’s just merely politics and don’t actually take the time to look at how CalSERVE is actually performing in this election,” said Denim Ohmit, CalSERVE’s elections coordinator. “Of course, we want our candidates to win, but we want them to do so ethically and by the book, and that’s why we stress rules so seriously.”

Still, Student Action, CalSERVE’s primary rival student political party, expressed concern after Sabo filed three charges against Upadhyayula and one charge against senate candidate Lambert Li for allegedly campaigning in an ASUC space and flyering in Crossroads Dining Commons, respectively.

“(Sabo’s) decisions are extraneous, and we feel he’s gone out of his way to give censures to the Student Action executive candidate,” said Antonia Acquistapace, Student Action’s party chair. “I would say that the distinction between the amount of censures Student Action has and the amount of censures CalSERVE has is abnormal.”

Upadhyayula and two Student Action senatorial candidates have also received one warning each.

The Judicial Council has not yet decided whether it will accept the charge sheets.

Jane Nho is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.