Controversial UMGSA election unratified

Several appeals filed after VPSS vote ends in tie

UPDATE: The UMGSA elections committee issued a release April 1 announcing the committee approved UMGSA president Carl Neumann’s appeal. Independent candidate Okechukwu Efobi has been disqualified from the campaign and Experience UMGSA member Eric Gagnon has been named the upcoming VPSS. Results will be formally ratified at the next UMGSA council meeting on April 24.

A controversial University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA) 2019 executive election is headed to a run-off vote after two candidates for vice-president services and support (VPSS) finished in a dead tie and a handful of appeals — including one each against the CRO and uncontested returning president Carl Neumann — have been filed. 

The results were to be ratified at the association’s regular council meeting March 27 but the outstanding appeals have left the process in limbo. Voting ended March 22 and preliminary results were posted to the UMGSA website three days later.

The unofficial results list Carl Neumann as president and Cody Ross as the vice-president finance and administration, both of whom ran unopposed and through the Experience UMGSA slate. Julia Minarik and Ehsan Tahmasebian, both from the Experience UMGSA slate, took the two senator positions. Roxie Koohgoli of the Experience UMGSA slate won the vice-president academic position.

The VPSS position ended in a tie, with independent candidate Okechukwu Efobi and Experience UMGSA slate member Eric Gagnon collecting 299 votes each.

According to UMGSA policy, a run-off election “shall begin within 14 days of the final recount of the ballots of the general election.”

During the March 27 meeting, council entered closed session and ejected UMGSA candidates in order to discuss ratification of the results.


Privacy concerns

Out of the appeals filed, one concerned CRO Ademola Adesola’s failure to penalize a candidate for an expense overrun. Two others concerned alleged breaches of privacy by Neumann and the Experience UMGSA slate.

The report released by the elections committee Monday removed Adesola as CRO, citing a “thread of slandering and accusatory emails” Adesola sent to the UMGSA executive. A further complaint that Adesola violated the UMGSA code of conduct by confronting Neumann outside the March 27 council meeting was also upheld.  

Neumann said in an email he filed an initial appeal concerning Adesola “regarding the CRO’s failure to subsequently apply a non-optional penalty, as explained in my submissions to the committee.”

The appeal claims Adesola failed to apply a demerit to Efobi for overspending on campaigning by $0.39.

Candidates are limited to spending $50 on campaigning and $20 for transportation.

Efobi filed a reimbursement form stating he spent $50.39, and said his $50.39 reimbursement form included his campaigning costs but not his transportation costs.

He said he filed a separate reimbursement form for his transportation costs.

UMGSA policy states that a demerit may be awarded for “minor yet flagrant or intentional infraction.”

One demerit reduces the recipient candidate’s votes by five per cent of total ballots cast for that candidate. A demerit applied to Efobi would result in Gagnon securing the VPSS position.

According to Efobi, he filed two appeals — both on March 27 — one against Neumann regarding concerns with how Neumann was aware of the overspending, and one against members of the Experience UMGSA slate about their possible complicity in the matter.

In an email, Efobi voiced concern over personal information listed on the reimbursement forms he filed for his campaign expenses and travel expenses, but did not provide any proof of his claims.

“I feel that my privacy has been violated as the form in question also contains some personal information about me,” he said.

“I am also concerned someone was spying. These are serious matters.”

Adesola has since accused Neumann of violating the privacy of a candidate.

Adesola said the only people who should have access to the reimbursement forms are the UMGSA office staff and the CRO.

UMGSA candidate expenses are overseen by the finance and executive committees as well, and both groups have signing authority on expense claims.

On March 29, Efobi sent an email to all UMGSA executives and the council chair voicing his concern about the possible privacy violation and calling for Neumann to resign.

“Your actions are very unbecoming of your position,” Efobi said in the email.

“I think you have lost your way and it is now time for you to resign.”

Neumann said he did not learn about the overspending through any sort of misconduct, but because Adesola spoke about it openly while Neumann was “right in front of him.”

“I have not seen any official documents relating to the candidate’s expense reimbursement submission, and I trusted that the CRO wasn’t lying about what he said,” he said.

“The CRO was entirely aware that I was right in front of him, and I remarked to him at that moment that it was surprising and very unfortunate that the candidate had exceeded his expense limit.”

Neumann said there was no wrongdoing on his part.

“I have done nothing wrong, and the accusation is simply false,” he said.

Adesola denied Neumann’s claim that he was overhead discussing any overspending and said Neumann “lacks the courage to tell the truth.”

Adesola said no such discussion ever occurred and argued that he would have had no reason to because he did not assign a penalty to Efobi.

“In my view, the only place he could have chanced on a candidate’s campaign expenses would be that he consciously fished for it, and he got assistance somewhere,” he said.

“Otherwise, the existence of every candidate document that was filed with the election committee was always known between me and the office assistant.”

Adesola refuted that there had been any overspending, saying he made the decision not to give out a demerit for a $0.39 overcharge.

“The idea of a $0.39 overage, It’s Carl’s claim, he’s the one saying it’s excess,” he said.

“I am the CRO of this election, and by the election policy manual, it is left for me to determine whether a candidate had overshot their budget or not.”

“I am saying there was no excess,” said Adesola. “I didn’t deem that an excess, for the reason that every candidate has a total of $70, so we should be looking at what is his overall.”

Adesola said he believes Neumann’s appeal was strategic — the UMGSA policy manual requires appeals and complaints to be filed within 48 hours of the alleged breach, and Neumann had not filed a complaint until after results had come in.

“Why wait until there was a tie?”

Neumann said in an email he did not make an appeal or complaint upon finding out about the overspending because he did not know that Adesola had not awarded a demerit to Efobi until the preliminary results had been posted online.

Adesola said he believed Neumann had violated the candidate’s privacy.

“There are two offences here, I think — one is the lies he is peddling against me, that has to be squarely addressed, because that is falsehood, and that is like defamation of my character,” he said.

“And two is, we have a case here, and a substantial, meaningful case, of [Neumann] violating privacy because of [his] access to that office.”

Neumann said the UMGSA would be releasing a statement and declined to comment further on the issue until the statement was made public.