Gardner

Student Government candidates Antonio Guevara and Madison Gardner face the Election Supervisory Board again after being reinstated Monday. Gardner said his campaign made “an honest mistake” for turning in the wrong receipt for their website and failing to note an earlier fine.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Updated on 03/22/12 at 12:23 p.m.

The Election Supervisory Board disqualified recently reinstated Student Government candidates Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara Wednesday for falsification of financial records, disregarding an election fine and failure to comply with the Election Code.

Austin Carlson, SG law school representative, brought up complaints against the candidates calling for their disqualification after UT reinstated them Monday. The Board heard the charges against Gardner and Guevara Tuesday night and charged Gardner with disqualification Wednesday night. The Board found the pair to be negligent when turning in receipts about their website, failing to acknowledge their earlier fines on their financial disclosure form and overall violating the Election Code multiple times.

The Board fined Gardner and Guevara a 10 percent fine of their campaign spending limit for turning in receipts for madisonandantonio.com instead of madisonantonio.com, the latter of which they currently use. The Board also counted this as falsification of a financial document. On Feb. 20, the Board charged the campaign a 10 percent fine of their total campaign budget for failing to list the wood they used for promotional reasons at fair market value, which they did not include in their new financial disclosure Monday.

In addition, the Board charged Gardner and Guevara to be in violation of early campaigning rules for taking a group picture in January for their promotional materials. They also fined Gardner a 5 percent campaign expense fine for failing to expense a free T-shirt he received at an event, writing his and Guevara’s name on it and posting it on Twitter.

Gardner said Tuesday he and Guevara made honest mistakes by turning in the wrong receipt and failing to note the Board’s previous fine on their financial statement. He said he hoped the Board takes all the facts into account when making a decision.

Gardner refused to comment on the Board’s second disqualification of him and Guevara.

Board chair Eric Nimmer said although Gardner and Guevara fought hard to get back on the ballot, it is irrelevant to Election Code law and the disqualification was by the book. “We never want to disqualify anyone, despite what this election shows,” Nimmer said. “We analyze the rules as we see them and the complaints as they are handed in front of us.”

Nimmer said he does not know if Gardner and Guevara plan to appeal but would not be surprised if they did. He said he and the Board empathize with Gardner and Guevara and what they have been through these past few weeks.

“The Election Code was not ever written to be legally perfect, because there are no legal scholars that write it,” Nimmer said. “It was written to regulate a student organization [Student Government] that wanted to stop certain behaviors.”

Carlson said he supports the Board’s decision and thinks it was fair. Carlson said he does not care about their previous disqualification, only the current violations at hand. He said there were many violations of the Election Code and at the hearing the candidates admitted to failure to turn in appropriate Web receipts and disregarding the Board fine on their financial disclosure.

“The Election Code was voted on by the candidate that was disqualified,” Carlson said. “Now Student Government will actually follow its Election Code. I think that is the precedent that will follow from here.”

He said Gardner should appeal the decision if he believes it to be unjust, but he agrees with the Board’s decision.

Janette Martinez, SG liberal arts representative, said she supports Gardner as an individual student not on behalf of SG. She said she was shocked when she heard about the second disqualification. She said she does not know if the SG Judicial Court will hear an appeal if the candidates file one because the court only hears cases if they believe they was a parliamentary error done by the Election Supervisory Board.

“I don’t think anyone knew they were going to be reinstated Monday and we were all very excited,” Martinez said. “But there was definitely a likelihood of error happening [in such a quick turnaround] and I hope if there are grounds for appeal they can get an appeal, turn in what they were supposed to turn in. They’re human, they made a mistake.”

View the complete Election Supervisory Board opinion below:

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Violations axe Madison/Antonio for second time

Photo Credit: Carlos Pagan | Daily Texan Staff

On Monday, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly announced that previously disqualified candidates Madison Gardner and his running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot for the Student Government presidential and vice presidential election. The decision comes three weeks after Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University and SG.

His suit alleged that the election code violated his free speech and assembly rights granted by the Texas Constitution. The Election Supervisory Board disqualified the executive alliance candidates because Carissa Kelley, recently elected Student Events Center president, appeared in their campaign materials. The SG rule prohibiting association among candidates has been temporarily suspended.

After two failed attempts to appeal the disqualification at the University level, Gardner took it upon himself to sue UT and SG, an organization in which he serves on the executive board, despite his claims of dedication and loyalty to the University. But his lawsuit underscores the disingenuous nature of those claims.

The mantra of Gardner and Guevara’s campaign is to “Unite Texas,” but their actions have consistently and unapologetically contradicted that pledge — unless they intended to unite Texas in animosity.

Gardner is delusional if he believes that suing the University is in the best interest of students. Students’ interests would have been better served if their university’s name had not been dragged through the mud and if its legal resources had not been squandered because Gardner and Guevara decided they needed one more line on their resumes, an opportunity their disqualification deprived them of, as Gardner’s attorney argued.

Moreover, that Gardner and Guevara were not satisfied with the decisions of two entities entirely composed of students, their potential constituents, speaks to their flippant attitude toward student democracy. Their reinstatement on the ballot is not representative of the students’ right to a fair election.

Not that fairness ever mattered much to Gardner. In an interview with The Daily Texan on Monday, he said, “I don’t think it really matters how much we spent because what we spent on the lawyer was a lot cheaper than a lot of other [attorneys].” Perhaps the thousands of dollars in legal fees didn’t dent his pocketbook, but to the vast majority of students here, such a move would have spelled financial ruin. Displaying an astounding degree of ignorance of his fellow students’ financial situations, Gardner thought there was nothing wrong with strolling down to an attorney’s office, writing a check and buying the election out from under his opponents.

The legitimacy of SG, already laughable in most circles, would bottom out if Gardner and Guevara are elected next week. What kind of leadership should we expect from students who show blatant disregard for the standards of fair elections?

The decision to include Gardner and Guevara on the ballot sets a dangerous precedent for the future of student representation at the University. It proves that candidates with enough money to hire an attorney are able to effectively ignore any decision the ESB and the SG judicial court can make regarding election rules, rendering both organizations powerless.

Gardner has displayed more energy and enthusiasm in his quest to sue his way back into the race than in the entirety of his past three years in SG. Clearly, he believes that students should have the privilege of being represented by someone whose biggest claim to fame is his phenomenal inability to take responsibility for his mistakes. This is not what we deserve in someone who claims to lead the student body.

Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara were reinstated as Student Government presidential candidates Monday and will drop their reinstatement lawsuit against the University.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly released a statement Monday stating that her office has suspended the association provision in the SG Election Code and will review it in the coming months. Reagins-Lilly said the decision to reinstate Gardner and Guevara was made based upon advice from the University’s outside legal counsel. She said the Office of the Dean of Students will work with SG in the coming months to clarify the association clause that disqualified Gardner and Guevara.

The Election Supervisory Board and the SG Judicial Court disqualified Gardner and Guevara on Feb. 22 for associating their campaign with Carissa Kelley, a candidate for a position within the University Unions, via promotional materials such as their fliers, videos and website. The Election Code states no association between candidates of any kind will be tolerated and violation of the provision can result in a disqualification.

Gardner said he was excited to hear he and Guevara were back in the race and will be dropping the suit against the University. He said being reinstated was the only provision he asked for in the lawsuit, nothing else.

“I think it will be tough moving forward because whenever we go speak or campaign the first thing people are going to think is, ‘Oh, they’re the ones that filed a lawsuit,’” Gardner said. “But we just want to be positive, tell our story to as many students as possible and let the students decide who they want to be their next president and vice president.”

Gardner said he is ready to begin campaigning again and that he and Guevara may start speaking at the Greek houses this afternoon.

Charles Maddox, Election Supervisory Board Chair Emeritus, said the Board has to enforce the decision made by the University. Maddox said he stands by the Election Code the way it is written and Gardner did not say he felt his constitutional rights were being violated in his first hearing with the Board.

“We didn’t know that was going to be his defense until the lawsuit was filed,” Maddox said.

Maddox said even if Gardner brought it up in his request for appeal to the SG Judicial Court, the court does not have the right to determine whether a provision is constitutional or not.

“Even though you sue and you are automatically back on the ballot, ultimately you are still up for elections and the students still vote,” Maddox said. “They could still say they don’t want you in office. It’s up for the students to decide.”

The UT Student Government presidential elections will occur next week on March 28 and 29 with three candidates on the ballot – John Lawler, Thor Lund and Madison Gardner.