The Villarreal Election Commission approved the University of California, Santa Barbara Associated Students Spring 2016 elections on Monday in a 5-0 vote. Outgoing A.S. President Jimmy Villarreal will send the decision to the Chancellor’s Office, where if approved will then go to the UC Office of the President for final approval, according to an update from Villarreal.
The commission will begin discussions in the upcoming weeks on the candidates’ swearing in process along with recommendations to the upcoming A.S. Senate on how to reform elections code.
The vote comes on the heels of UCSB Audit and Advisory Services’ final report on its independent investigation into bribery allegations during elections. On April 26, A.S. Elections Board released a letter to campus media, saying they believed “[The Inter-Fraternity Council] bribed its members with the promise of philanthropic grants to houses with high voter turnout in this Associated Students Spring Election,” and called for a total re-vote.
In its final report, completed on June 24 but not publicly shared until August 2 by the A.S. President’s Office, audit services concluded that there was “[n]o evidence of bribery related to the IFC grants program.”
Additionally, they found no violations of current Associated Students elections code and concluded that the grant program caused no “serious voting irregularity or undue influence.”
Elections Board has henceforth apologized to the IFC and its president for the accusation after the audit services’ preliminary findings were released in June.
Audit services initiated its investigation after A.S. Executive Director Marisela Márquez contacted them on May 5.
The controversy began when Elections Board received an anonymous elections complaint on a grant program being conducted by the IFC during the elections. They started an investigation, and soon received a letter from IFC president Brendan Gonzalez, explaining the process of the grant program with IFC-associated fraternities. Based on participation and voter turnout, fraternities were eligible to receive $200 or $400 grants based on how many voted within a fraternity, according to audit services’ final report.
Throughout the proceeding weeks, Gonzalez insisted that the IFC was involved in no wrongdoing. At the April 27 A.S. Senate meeting, he said the whole program was discussed with their advisor Miles Ashlock, who serves as the Assistant Dean & Director for the Office of Student Life. Efforts to contact Gonzalez for a comment over the weekend and on Monday were unsuccessful.
Villarreal formed the special commission to handle A.S. duties while audit services conducted an independent investigation into the bribery accusations. The commission currently has five members, UCSB students Elizabeth Brock, Menelik Dagnachew, Cindy Lam, Courtney Stump and Jacqueline Vierra as of Monday. Villarreal is currently looking for more participants, saying two more would be ideal for the work they are still planning to do on elections code reform.
When asked if Villarreal thought the university’s student government electoral process was intact, he said he did.
“I think that this … whole process is a testament to that,” Villarreal told The Bottom Line. “By calling in an outside … investigation and having them do [this], that is what I think kept the integrity intact. We didn’t just brush everything off. We heard the people saying there were some concerns.”