Austin Carlson

Student Government presidential candidate Thor Lund and running mate Wills Brown came under speculation by the Election Supervisory Board on Tuesday for possibly violating University trademark rules in their promotional materials.

Law school representative Austin Carlson filed a complaint against the candidates Tuesday, claiming they disregarded an earlier Board decision that ordered them to take down materials it deemed violated trademark rules. Carlson said he felt Lund and Brown should be issued a fine or a moratorium to make up for the unfair advantage they may have gained using UT trademarked property.

The Board has 24 hours to release a decision on the case. The SG presidential elections will be held today and Thursday.

The promotional materials in question were photos on Lund’s campaign website where he and Brown engaged in use of the “Hook ‘Em” hand sign.

Lund said he was not worried when a complaint was filed against him and Brown because they have run a very clean campaign. Gardner/Guevara campaign manager Alexander Jones filed a trademark violation complaint against the pair in February. The Board found the candidates to be in violation of University trademark rules Feb. 19 but did not issue punishment.

Lund said he and Brown did not violate an earlier Board ruling because they took the materials in question down on Feb. 19. Lund said Carlson’s complaint identified a photo the Board did not rule as a violation at the first hearing.

“I don’t think we had an unfair advantage,” Lund said. “In regards to the last hearing, [the Board] said if the trademark was not the focus of the picture it was not a problem.”

Lund said any fine imposed by the Board would not affect his campaign because he and Brown have spent only about half of their $1,020 total campaign spending limit.

According to the University’s Office of Trademark Licensing, only organizations registered with the Office of the Dean of Students may use the trademarked property. Furthermore, groups may not use the marks in a manner that would encourage endorsement or approval.

Carlson said he does not feel the violation was intentional and argued in Lund and Brown’s defense.

“I don’t want these candidates to be disqualified,” Carlson said. “I just wanted to be consistent to make sure the decision was upheld. [This complaint] is not to the magnitude of my complaint against Gardner/Guevara.”

Printed on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 as: Lund, Brown face trademark violation complaint from ESB

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 instead of, 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

Eric Nimmer, Election Supervisory Board chair, listens to Aakash Kumar’s argument regarding Student Government candidates Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, Tuesday night. Law student Austin Carlson filed eight complaints against the candidates for financial discretions and Election Code violations.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

A day after being reinstated, Student Government presidential candidate Madison Gardner and running mate Antonio Guevara stood before the Election Supervisory Board yet again for complaints filed against their campaign.

Austin Carlson, SG law school representative, filed a complaint against Gardner and Guevara calling for their disqualification Monday evening. Carlson claims the candidates did not accurately report campaign expenses and intentionally falsified their financial documents. The Board heard the complaint at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The board has until Thursday night to determine the consequences the campaign will face. Currently, elections for executive alliances are scheduled for March 28 and 29.

Carlson filed five counts of financial violations against Gardner and Guevara. He claims they received professional help on their website, although the Board ruled they were not in violation of this on Feb. 20, bought multiple domain names while not using the one listed on their financial statement, held an event where they displayed unaccounted promotional material with their names on it, did not account for several painted boards with their slogan “Unite Texas” and did not account for painting supplies evident in photos on their website. The candidates currently use, which cost about $24, but submitted a receipt for, which cost about $17.

Carlson said he filed the complaint as an individual student and not an SG representative. He said although UT has reinstated the pair to review the association clause of the Election Code for which they were previously disqualified, the financial rules of the code are clear.

According to the Election Code, any candidate who acquires more than 20 percent of their campaign spending limit in fines will be automatically disqualified.

Carlson said if Gardner gets disqualified for financial violations, Gardner will not be able to sue to get back on the ballot. Regarding whether UT will allow the Board to disqualify Gardner and Guevara again, Carlson said UT has no choice.

“If the ESB fines them and the [Judicial] Court confirms that, I don’t see why the University won’t honor that,” Carlson said. “That’s the problem, if the candidate has enough money and they don’t like the outcome [of a decision], they can sue.”

Carlson said he is not committed to any candidate in the race at the moment and is filing of his own accord.

Aakash Kumar, a supply chain management senior who worked on Abel Mulugheta and Sameer Desai’s campaign last year, represented Gardner and Guevara to the ESB. Kumar argued Carlson was nitpicking at the rules and using them against Gardner and Guevara.

Kumar said contrary to Carlson’s argument, Gardner and Guevara did provide receipts for paint supplies and boards. Kumar also said the T-shirt Carlson listed as an accounted promotional expense, on which Gardner wrote his and Guevara’s name in paint, was given to Gardner for free at a local event.

He said the Board had already previously ruled the candidates not to be in violation for using a Web consultant and bringing the charge up again would be the equivalent to double jeopardy.

Eric Nimmer, Election Supervisory Board chair, asked Gardner why he did not include the 10 percent fine the Board issued to their campaign on Feb. 20. The Board fined the candidates for renting wood from a local fraternity house and failing to list its market value in their financial disclosure. Gardner said he submitted a new financial disclosure hours after being reinstated yesterday, and not including it was an honest mistake.

“There are two parts I see to intent,” Nimmer said at the hearing. “One is malicious and two is negligence.”

Gardner said he feels he and Guevara have run a clean and ethical campaign. He said it is tough to know how the Board will decide, but he hopes they take all the facts into account.

Kumar said he thinks the campaign made a mistake in accidentally turning in the wrong receipt and forgetting to report the 10 percent fine on their financial disclosure and should be issued a fine, but not another disqualification.

“Nitpicking affects campaigning and how much the candidates can dedicate to a campaign,” Kumar said. “It’s very difficult to watch out for the minute details. People are not going to run if it’s this complicated.”

Printed on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: SG candidates charged after reinstatement

After a hearing and deliberation over discrepancy of official and unofficial appointments by the judicial branch of Student Government, a verdict has been reached.

SG School of Law representative Austin Carlson petitioned against several unofficial positions made by SG President Natalie Butler, who defended her actions by stating that expediency sometimes calls for sudden appointments.

Butler also said she should have the right to send someone to meetings in her place.

SG chief justice Alden Harris released the final decision on Sunday, which states that the term ‘appointments’ should include all nominations or selections made by the executive branch, and “must be confirmed by a vote of the assembly, subject to several important exceptions.”

Exceptions include extra time for confirmation in cases which require expediency, allowing Butler to continue sending people to stand in for her when she can’t make meetings and allowing members of the executive branch to make appointments while not working in their capacity as student body representatives or SG representatives, Harris said.

“What [the decision] does in a nutshell, it slightly expands the universe of people who need to be confirmed but I don’t think it will have that huge of an impact,” he said. “It’ll give the committee more to reference on a few of those ad hoc committees and borderline cases.”

The decision will be in effect by the end of the month, Harris said.

The exception for expediency will allow the executive branch to better handle situations, which call for fast action, Butler said. Without it, it would become difficult to appoint students to positions in committees with short timelines, she said.

“I’m glad they made the clarifications that they did and I’m working to comply as fast as possibly,” she said. “It’s honestly what I expected. I clarified my opinions but they disagreed and that’s fine. I think it’s good that we have clarification.”

Before this, the executive branch could appoint students to positions with no applications or publicity, Carlson said.

“A lot of times, the president’s office just wants to have a student appointed,” he said. “This way it undermines them giving a position to a random student.”

Although Butler has done a better job of transparency than some past presidents, this will prevent unapproved appointments in the future, he said.

“The biggest thing I’m going for is I want SG to be as accessible as possible,” he said. “As important as this is, it’s still just another step in the direction of transparency.”

Long-standing ambiguity in Student Government committee appointment standards may be resolved tomorrow depending on the outcome of a hearing for a petition against the student body president.

Student Government’s judiciary branch met for a hearing last night to hear out parties involved in a petition submitted by SG School of Law representative Austin Carlson.

According to the petition, there is ambiguity concerning the process that a student body president must take to appoint someone to a committee. The confusion has resulted in ad hoc standards for what merits a constitutionally-defined appointment. SG Chief Justice Alden Harris said a decision will ideally be made by tomorrow.

According to Carlson, current SG President Natalie Butler has made appointments and created committees without going through the assembly. This infringes upon SG’s transparency and on a students ability to become involved in student government because it allows for the executive office to bypass assembly regulations, he said.

“If the student isn’t confirmed [by the assembly], they need to be confirmed or else the power of the assembly is being abridged,” he said. “That’s my most important thing, everything else is second because that check is such an important part of the way the assembly works.”

A line needs to be drawn between Butler sending someone to a meeting when she can’t make it and appointing someone to a committee to take her place, Carlson said.

There should also be clarification between someone representing SG and someone representing the student body, because as it stands they are essentially the same thing, he said. Carlson’s suggested solution is the “Bright Line Appointment Test,” which would require any student serving in any capacity to undergo the assembly’s official appointment process and to be considered a representative of SG, the University and the student body.

The distinction of how someone is serving on a given committee comes from asking the person who is requesting a potential student committee member, Butler said. She said while she is happy to comply with any resolution made by the judicial branch, she would like to allow some time for expedient circumstances and to maintain her authority to send someone in her place when she cannot make it to meetings.

Fighting for the student voice is one of the student body president’s most important duties, Butler said. The bright line test could create a long, difficult process which would result in University committees opting out of involving SG at all, she said.

“I’m very aware that if a different person were sitting in my chair, the University may not ask them questions that they would ask me,” she said. “Next year what if there isn’t that relationship? Then there isn’t that sense of trust and SG may not be consulted at all.”