After more than a week of Student Government roller coaster rides — including an initial triumph by Unite LSU Student Government presidential candidate John Woodard and vice presidential candidate Taylor Parks, their subsequent disqualification, a reversal of the disqualification, Woodard and Parks’ reinstatement as the winners and a nullification of last week’s election — a second SG presidential election will be held Monday.
The decision to void last week’s election and hold a second election was reached by a unanimous vote from the University Court after new evidence was provided by Shauncey Hunter, SG solicitor general, which raised reasonable doubt to the fairness of the original election.
However, Woodard said the solicitor general never contacted him during the investigation. “They didn’t even let us know what was going on,” Woodard said.
According to Morgan Faulk, UCourt chief justice, the evidence includes five exhibits, which are explained:
• An estimate from Red River IT Consulting, LLC., shows prices for 24 banners. According to UCourt, this estimate was instrumental in defining fair market value for the case and resulted in the nullification of two quotes presented by the election board for banners.
• The business purpose of Red River IT Consulting, LLC., describes the company as “an information technology consulting company, located in northwest Louisiana, specializing in the design and development of quality, innovative IT solution for small businesses, local government entities and individuals ... We also offer high-resolution aerial raster imagery maps. We print all of our maps in-house and can print on a variety of media as long as 44” by any length.” It is not noted that Red River produces banners or that it possesses capabilities of printing banners as stated by Unite LSU.
According to Unite LSU, "Red River IT Consulting does indeed make banners and have done so multiple times."
• Price quotes are shown for 24 8.5-inch by 7.5-inch banners, printed on vinyl identical to that stated by docket 13-04 by Unite LSU. Eight quotes were gathered — the highest for $409, the lowest for $145. Robbie Mahtook, counsel for Kristina Lagasse, who prepared Unite LSU’s financial documents, stated in docket 13-04 the highest quote they received was $110.
Unite LSU rebutted this charge by saying the banners were 8.5 by 7.5 feet, not inches.
• A digital copy of a contract signed between campaign managers Chastity Swinburn and Ashleigh Pichon, which was an agreement to expense tents and tables during active campaigning for $1 per day per tent and table, is presented. The same agreement was made for election days. Unite LSU failed to expense these items in its financial documents and in docket 13-03. Woodard denied knowledge of this agreement under oath. The total cost of this agreement would have led to a $17 increase of funds.
Unite LSU disagrees with this claim as well.
"All Unite LSU representatives, including myself, who were questioned about this matter stated that we were aware of the agreement, however Commissioner Simon told me twice that those items were not required to be listed on the financial documents, which is why I chose not to include them," said Kristina Lagasse, who filled out Unite LSU's finance forms.
• A signed statement from Vice President Carrie Hebert denotes that Woodard arrived in the Student Government Office at 10:23 a.m. to submit the required financial forms. She said she was aware Unite LSU’s financials were done, due to the fact that the night before, her sorority sister and Unite LSU staff member, Lagasse, asked Simon questions about the financial forms at the Delta Delta Delta sorority house.
Faulk convened the entire court Wednesday evening for a last-minute, unpublicized meeting to present the new information, said Michael Smith, SG adviser. Faulk said after the presentation, Smith asked the court multiple times if anybody had any questions or needed to continue looking at the documents.
The UCourt holds the final judgment in situations such as these, said Dean of Students K.C. White. UCourt has exclusive jurisdiction over matters that fall under any governing documents including the constitution, bylaws, election code, rules of court and rules of order.
Smith said White; Mary Wallace, associate dean of students; and himself met with Faulk to discuss options moving forward, per SG’s governing documents.
All guidelines for the second election are undetermined. UCourt has the power to set the rules, since none are described for a special election in governing documents.
The only standard thus far is that candidates can only use social media to campaign. Current President Taylor Cox asked the candidates Wednesday night to refrain from campaigning for 48 hours until about 8 p.m. on Friday, Impact LSU’s campaign manager Andrew David said.
Faulk told both tickets that a complete list of rules would be released today, according to Joe Gipson, Unite LSU’s campaign manager.
“The most important thing is to get out there and let [students] know that there is another election,” Gipson said. “If nobody knows about it, then nobody will vote.”
Low voter turnout is also a prime concern for Impact LSU, David said.
“Turnout is a huge concern when you have multiple elections, and that’s something that will definitely be a concern in this election,” David said. “Honestly, I don’t expect a high turnout.”
Impact LSU will tackle the upcoming election like any other election and will share information, state its initiative and promote the candidates using all forms of social media, David said.
Once the election’s parameters have been established, Gipson said Unite LSU’s candidates will strictly follow those rules to ensure no further questions are posed after the final results are revealed — win or lose.
“We want to make sure this time that this is the nail that hammers the point all the way home,” Gipson said.
The Unite LSU camp feels optimistic going into the weekend of campaigning, Gipson said. Though it was “definitely a trying and grueling last week,” the candidates will enter the weekend with the “best attitudes they can.”
The stresses of the previous week have also taken their toll on Impact LSU, David said.
“Everyone is tired, but we’re excited that there is an opportunity to do this the right way, the clean way,” David said. “We are glad that the University Court has spoken and that we will be able to have a fair election. There are no other avenues to decide this election, other than to start all over, because of how corrupt, how drawn out and how contentious it has been.”
David insisted the controversial election is not a reflection of SG as a whole, but that of candidates from the two tickets. SG is still doing whatever it can to benefit students, he said.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the following change -- Unite LSU has rebutted the accusations against them in the solicitor general's report.